Extinction memory is facilitated by methylphenidate and regulated by dopamine and noradrenaline receptors

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Extinction is defined as the learned inhibition of retrieval and is the mainstay of exposure therapy, which is widely used to treat drug addiction, phobias and fear disorders. The psychostimulant, methylphenidate (MPH) is known to increase extracellular levels of noradrenaline and dopamine by blocking their reuptake and studies have demonstrated that MPH can modulate hippocampal physiology and/or functions including long-term potentiation (LTP), learning and memory. However, the influence of MPH on fear extinction memory has been insufficiently studied. Here we investigate the effect of MPH infused into the CA1 region of the hippocampus on extinction memory in animals normally incapable of showing contextual fear conditioning (CFC) extinction because of weak training, and the possible mechanisms through which it acts during this process. For this, male Wistar rats with infusion cannulae stereotaxically implanted in the CA1 region were submitted to a weak extinction protocol in a CFC apparatus. Animals that received intra-CA1 infusion of MPH (12.5 μg/side) 20 min before the extinction training (Ext Tr) expressed less freezing behavior than Veh-treated animals during both Ext Tr and extinction retention Test (Ext Test). Additionally, the administration of MPH + Timolol (1 μg/side) or MPH + SCH23390 (1.5 μg/side) intra-CA1 20 min before the Ext Tr blocked the enhancing effect of the MPH on extinction learning. These results suggest that MPH in the CA1 region of the hippocampus is able to induce the consolidation of extinction memory and this process occurs through both β-adrenergic and D1/D5 dopaminergic receptors.

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