In basic research, the etiology of fear-related pathologies, such as post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is conceptualized using fear-conditioning protocols that pair environmental stimuli (that is, a conditioned stimulus-CS) with an aversive, unconditioned stimulus (US) to elicit an assessable conditioned fear response. Although pathophysiological models agree that regulatory dysfunctions in this associative process may instigate fear-related pathology, current opinions differ in regard to the nature of these dysfunctions. Primarily derived from studies in rodents, the prevailing perspective proposes that pathological fear-reactions develop from intensified and overly consolidated CS-US associations. Alternatively, models derived from studies in humans suggest that tempospatial inaccuracies in representations of associative fear might precipitate pathology by engendering failure to differentiate present experiences and past memories of threat. To test this concept in rodents, we administered rats with cognition enhancing doses of Methylphenidate before or after fear conditioning and measured long-Term alterations in their conditioned fear behaviors and PTSD-like reactions. The administration of Methylphenidate before fear-memory formation indeed reduced anxiouslike responses during fear-memory retrieval one month later. An individual profiling analysis revealed that Methylphenidate onset had opposing effects on the risk for PTSD-like classification. The modulation of initial learning and formation of associative fear normalized the risk for developing PTSD-like reaction. In contrast, when the effects of Methylphenidate were exerted only over later consolidation this risk increased markedly. When examined under current psychiatric and neuropharmacologic literature, these results reveal a possible strategy of using low-dose Methylphenidate for the prevention of PTSD in high risk populations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Mr Boris Boltyansky for his assistance with the behavioral procedures. This research was funded by a USAMRMC award (10071009) to GRL.
© The Author(s) 2017.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry