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ADHD medicine affects the brain's reward system
Date:11/9/2012

A group of scientists from the University of Copenhagen has created a model that shows how some types of ADHD medicine influence the brain's reward system. The model makes it possible to understand the effect of the medicine and perhaps in the longer term to improve the development of medicine and dose determination. The new research results have been published in the Journal of Neurophysiology.

In Denmark approximately 2-3 per cent of school-age children satisfy diagnostic criteria for ADHD, and therefore it is crucial to know how the medicine works. With a new mathematical reconstruction of a tiny part of the brain region that registers reward and punishment, scientists from the University of Copenhagen are acquiring new knowledge about the effect of ADHD medicine. When reward and punishment signals run through the brain, the chemical dopamine is always involved.

"It has been discussed for years whether treating ADHD with Ritalin and similar drugs affects the reward system to any significant degree, simply because the dosage given to patients is so low. We are the first to show that some components of the dopamine signalling pathways are extremely sensitive to drugs like Ritalin. We have also developed a unified theory to describe the effect of such drugs on the dopamine signal," says Jakob Kisbye Dreyer, postdoctoral candidate at the Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, where the model was developed.

He emphasises the importance of knowing exactly what happens during treatment with drugs like Ritalin. This is in order to develop better and more targeted medicine, as well as to understand the psychology underlying ADHD. The actions of human beings are motivated by an unconscious calculation of cost relative to expected gain. The scientists' results show that ADHD medicine specifically reduces signals about anticipated punishment.

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Contact: Postdoc Jakob Kisbye Dreyer
jakobdr@sund.ku.dk
45-60-80-95-51
University of Copenhagen
Source:Eurekalert

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