Prenatal exposure to methylphenidate hydrochloride decreases anxiety and increases exploration in mice.
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The administration of methylphenidate (MPH) to girls and adults has increased in the last decade. Given the similarity of MPH to cocaine and the increasing possibility of embryonic exposure, the gestational effects of this stimulant on development must be considered. We administered MPH (5 mg/kg) or saline to female CD-1 mice at three different periods during pregnancy [embryonic (E) days 8-10, 12-14, and 16-18]. MPH-exposed pups were compared with the saline-treated pups for changes in physical, motor, and behavioral development at postnatal day (PND) 3-11. In adulthood (>60 days of age) these mice were tested in the open field, elevated plus maze, and water maze, and given an acute MPH challenge. We observed limited effects of MPH exposure on early developmental variables. In adulthood, mice exposed to MPH on E8-10 exhibited a general decrease in anxiety-related behaviors and a concomitant increase in exploratory behavior. Prenatal MPH exposure did not alter water maze performance or the response to an acute MPH challenge. Our data provide an initial overview of the possible effects occurring as a result of prenatal exposure to MPH, and strongly suggest that further studies of the in utero and developmental effects of psychostimulants are needed.