Navigation Links
Ritalin boosts learning by increasing brain plasticity
Date:3/7/2010

Doctors treat millions of children with Ritalin every year to improve their ability to focus on tasks, but scientists now report that Ritalin also directly enhances the speed of learning.

In animal research, the scientists showed for the first time that Ritalin boosts both of these cognitive abilities by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine deep inside the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers neurons use to communicate with each other. They release the molecule, which then docks onto receptors of other neurons. The research demonstrated that one type of dopamine receptor aids the ability to focus, and another type improves the learning itself.

The scientists also established that Ritalin produces these effects by enhancing brain plasticity strengthening communication between neurons where they meet at the synapse. Research in this field has accelerated as scientists have recognized that our brains can continue to form new connections remain plastic throughout life.

"Since we now know that Ritalin improves behavior through two specific types of neurotransmitter receptors, the finding could help in the development of better targeted drugs, with fewer side effects, to increase focus and learning," said Antonello Bonci, MD, principal investigator at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center and professor of neurology at UCSF. The Gallo Center is affiliated with the UCSF Department of Neurology.

Bonci is co-senior author of the paper, which will be published online in "Nature Neuroscience" on Sunday, March 7, 2010.

Bonci and his colleagues showed that Ritalin's therapeutic action takes place in a brain region called the amygdala, an almond-shaped cluster of neurons known to be critical for learning and emotional memory.

"We found that a dopamine receptor, known as the D2 receptor, controls the ability to stay focused on a task the well-known benefit of Ritalin," said Patricia Janak, PhD, co-senior author on the paper. "But we also discovered that another dopamine receptor, D1, underlies learning efficiency."

Janak is a principal investigator at the Gallo Center and a UCSF associate professor of neurology. Lead author of the paper is Kay M. Tye, PhD, a postdoctoral scientist at the Gallo Center when the research was carried out.

The research assessed the ability of rats to learn that they could get a sugar water reward when they received a signal a flash of light and a sound. The scientists compared the behavior of animals receiving Ritalin with those that did not receive it, and found those receiving Ritalin learned much better.

However, they also found that if they blocked the dopamine D1 receptors with drugs, Ritalin was unable to enhance learning. And if they blocked D2 receptors, Ritalin failed to improve focus. The experiments established the distinct role of each of the dopamine receptors in enabling Ritalin to enhance cognitive performance.

In addition, animals that performed better after Ritalin treatment showed enhanced synaptic plasticity in the amygdala. Enhanced plasticity is essentially increased efficiency of neural transmission. The researchers confirmed this by measuring electrical activity in neurons in the amygdala after Ritalin treatment.

The research confirmed that learning and focus were enhanced when Ritalin was administered to animals in doses comparable to those used therapeutically in children.

"Although Ritalin is so frequently prescribed, it induces many brain changes, making it difficult to identify which of those changes improve learning." said Kay Tye. "By identifying the brain mechanisms underlying Ritalin's behavioral enhancements, we can better understand the action of Ritalin as well as the properties governing brain plasticity."


'/>"/>

Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
jobrien@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. An apple a day? Study shows soluble fiber boosts immune system
2. World-class protection boosts Australias Great Barrier Reef
3. Supplementing babies formula with DHA boosts cognitive development
4. High-tech vehicle design boosts emergency rescue capacity
5. Faculty of Translational Medicine boosts support for biomedical researchers
6. ESAs Earth observation missions: Sharing teams and facilities boosts efficiency
7. Late motherhood boosts family lifespan
8. Major NSF grant boosts UNH research on hormonal genomics
9. New MegaMatcher Accelerator Boosts Speed for High-Volume Biometric Identification and Database Duplicate Searching
10. High CO2 boosts plant respiration, potentially affecting climate and crops
11. A little wine boosts omega-3 in the body: Researchers find a novel mechanism for a healthier heart
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/24/2016)... , May 24, 2016 Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing unparalleled ... medical LCD display is the latest premium product recently added to the range of ... ... ... Sony 3d Imaging- LCD Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... , May 12, 2016 WearablesResearch.com ... just published the overview results from the Q1 wave ... the recent wave was consumers, receptivity to a program ... data with a health insurance company. "We ... to share," says Michael LaColla , CEO of ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... SAN FRANCISCO and BANGALORE, India ... part of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: ... service provider, today announced a global partnership that ... convenient way to use mobile banking and payment services. ... Mobility is a key innovation area for financial services, but ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... the launch of the Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., ... the future of how hardware projects are designed, built and brought to market. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... BEACH, Calif. , June 23, 2016  Blueprint ... new biological discoveries to the medical community, has closed ... co-founder Matthew Nunez . "We have ... us with the capital we need to meet our ... will essentially provide us the runway to complete validation ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Prairie, WI (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 ... ... consultancy focused on quality, regulatory and technical consulting, provides a free webinar ... is presented on July 13, 2016 at 12pm CT at no charge. , ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... 22, 2016 Cell Applications, Inc. and ... to produce up to one billion human induced ... one week. These high-quality, consistent stem cells enable ... and spend more time doing meaningful, relevant research. ... high-volume manufacturing process that produces affordable, reliable HiPSC ...
Breaking Biology Technology: