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Ritalin may ease early iron deficiency damage
Date:2/2/2011

Ritalin may help improve brain function in adolescent rats that were iron deficient during infancy, according to a team of Penn State neuroscientists. This may have implications for iron-deficient human infants as well.

The researchers found that low doses of Ritalin can help improve the focus of iron-deficient rats. Higher doses proved to hurt rather than help the control animals' focus, making them hyperactive. The control rats that were not iron deficient but received low doses of Ritalin showed no positive or negative change in performance.

When children are deprived of iron at any point during the last trimester of pregnancy or the first six months of life -- a critical period of brain development -- they suffer brain damage at least through early adulthood, and possibly beyond. In particular, their motor function can be impaired as well as their ability to focus.

Children with iron deficiency can exhibit attention problems, attachment issues and motor problems, said Byron C. Jones, professor of biobehavioral health.

Iron-deficient adults often have restless leg syndrome. People who become iron deficient after three years of age can recover by taking iron supplements.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, iron deficiency ranks in the top 10 causes of global disease and affects more than 2 billion children.

Iron-deficient adolescent rats were treated with methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin, to see if the drug would help the animals overcome the deficit, as reported in this quarter's issue of Behavioural Brain Research.

"Most of the research community knows that iron deficiency has a major hit on dopamine systems," said Jones. "Why hasn't anybody tried a dopamine drug to repair or at least rescue some of what's lost?" Ritalin is a drug that helps regulate levels of dopamine in the brain. Most often it is prescribed to patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity
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Contact: Tori Indivero
vmi1@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

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