Methylphenidate Dose-Dependently Affects Aggression and Improves Fear Extinction and Anxiety in BALB/cJ Mice

Amanda Jager, Doranda Kanters, Femke Geers, Jan K. Buitelaar, Tamas Kozicz, Jeffrey C. Glennon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Overt aggression, increased anxiety, and dysfunctional fear processing are often observed in individuals with conduct disorder (CD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Methylphenidate (MPH), a psychostimulant increasing dopamine and noradrenaline tone, is effective in reducing aggression in both CD and ADHD individuals. However, it is unclear to which extent these effects of MPH are dose dependent. Here, the effects of acute intraperitoneal MPH (3 and 10 mg/kg) on aggression, anxiety, social behavior, and fear extinction were investigated in BALB/cJ mice. Previous studies in BALB/cJ mice have revealed high levels of aggression and anxiety that are associated with reduced top-down cortical control. Administration of 3 mg/kg MPH prolonged the attack latency and prevented escalation of aggression over time compared to vehicle-treated mice, while 10 mg/kg MPH increased number of bites and attacks. In addition, 3 mg/kg MPH decreased social interaction slightly. A strong anxiolytic effect was found after administration of both the 3 and 10 mg/kg doses in the elevated plus maze and the open-field test. In addition, while vehicle-treated BALB/cJ animals showed intact freezing, both doses of MPH decreased freezing to the unconditioned stimulus in a fear-conditioning paradigm. A long-lasting effect on fear extinction was visible after treatment with the 10 mg/kg dose. The data support a role for MPH in the regulation of anxiety, fear processing, and aggression in BALB/cJ mice, with the latter effect in a dose-dependent manner. The findings provide a further context for examining the effects of MPH in clinical disorders such as ADHD and CD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number768
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - Oct 25 2019


  • aggression
  • animal
  • anxiety
  • attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • conduct disorder
  • methylphenidate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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