Effects of methylphenidate on visual responses in the superior colliculus in the anaesthetised rat: role of cortical activation


The mechanism of action of psychostimulant drugs in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is still largely unknown, although recent evidence suggests one possibility is that the drugs affect the superior colliculus (SC). We have previously demonstrated that systemically administered d-amphetamine attenuates/abolishes visual responses to wholefield light flashes in the superficial layers of the SC in anaesthetised rats, and the present study sought to extend this work to methylphenidate (MPH). Anaesthetised rats were administered MPH at a range of doses (or saline) and subjected to monocular wholefield light flashes at two intensities, juxta-threshold and super-threshold. In contrast to d-amphetamine, systemic MPH produced an enhancement of visual activity at both intensities. Methylphenidate was also found to produce activation of the cortical EEG in anaesthetised rats. Furthermore, cortical activation induced by electrical stimulation of the pons was found to enhance visual responses in superficial layers of the SC, and when MPH was paired with pontine-induced cortical activation, the response-enhancing effects of MPH were substantially attenuated. Taken together, the results suggest that the enhancement of visual responses in the superficial layers of the SC by MPH in the anaesthetised rat is an artefact of the drug’s interaction with cortical arousal.

In Journal of Psychopharmacology