Indexed on: 29 Jun '13Published on: 29 Jun '13Published in: Brain Research
Rearing young rodents in socially isolated or environmentally enriched conditions has been shown to affect numerous components of the dopamine system as well as behavior. Methylphenidate (MPH), a commonly used dopaminergic agent, may affect animals differently based on rearing environment. Here we examined the interaction between environment and chronic MPH treatment at clinically relevant doses, administered via osmotic minipump. Young Sprague Dawley rats (PND 21) were assigned to environmentally enriched, pair-housed, or socially isolated rearing conditions, and treated with either 0, 2, 4, or 8 mg/kg/day MPH for 3 weeks. At the end of the treatment period, animals were tested for locomotor activity and anxiety-like behavior. The densities of D1-like and D2-like receptors were measured in the striatum using in vitro receptor autoradiography. Locomotor activity and anxiety-like behavior were increased in isolated animals compared to pair-housed and enriched animals. The density of D1-like receptors was greater in isolated animals, but there were no differences between groups in D2-like receptor density. Finally, there were no effects of MPH administration on any reported measure. This study provides evidence for an effect of early rearing environment on the dopamine system and behavior, and also suggests that MPH administration may not have long-term consequences.