Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Nachum Dafny

Committee Member

Dr. Vicky Knutson

Committee Member

Dr. Michael Beauchamp

Committee Member

Dr. Jack Waymire

Committee Member

Dr. Patrick Dougherty


Methylphenidate is currently a drug of abuse and readily prescribed to both adolescents and adults. Chronic methylphenidate (MPH) exposure results in an increase in DA in the motive circuit, including the caudate nucleus (CN), similar to other drugs of abuse. This study focuses on research aimed to elucidate if there are intrinsic underlying differences in the CN electrophysiological activity of animals exhibiting different chronic responses to the same dose of MPH. Behavioral and caudate nucleus (CN) neuronal activity following acute and chronic doses of MPH was assessed by simultaneously recording the behavioral and neuronal activity. The experimental protocol lasted for 10 days using four groups; saline, 0.6, 2.5 and 10.0mg/kg MPH. Initially, the study determined that animals exposed to the same dose of MPH exhibited either behavioral sensitization or behavioral tolerance. Therefore animals were classified into two groups (behaviorally sensitized/tolerant) and their neuronal activity was evaluated. Four hundred and fifty one units were evaluated. Overall, a mixture of increases and decreases in CN neuronal populations was observed at initial MPH exposure, and at ED10 baseline and ED10 rechallenge. When separated based on their behavioral response (sensitized/tolerant), significant differences in neuronal response patterns was revealed. Animals exhibiting sensitization were more likely to increase their neuronal activity at ED1 and ED10 baseline, expressing the opposite response at ED10 rechallenge. Furthermore, when neuronal populations recorded from those animals exhibiting behavioral sensitization were statistically compared to those from animals exhibiting behavioral tolerance significant differences were observed. Collectively, these findings tell us that animals exposed to the same dose of MPH can respond oppositely and moreover that there is in fact some intrinsic difference in the two population’s neuronal activity. This study offers new insight into the electrophysiological differences between sensitized and tolerant animals.


ritalin, behavior, sensitization, tolerance, caudate nucleus, neuronal activity



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