Methylphenidate enhances extinction of contextual fear

Antony D. Abraham, Christopher Cunningham, K. Matthew Lattal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Methylphenidate (MPH, Ritalin) is a norepinephrine and dopamine transporter blocker that is widely used in humans for treatment of attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy. Although there is some evidence that targeted microinjections of MPH may enhance fear acquisition, little is known about the effect of MPH on fear extinction. Here, we show that MPH, administered before or immediately following extinction of contextual fear, will enhance extinction retention in C57BL/6 mice. Animals that received MPH (2.5-10 mg/kg) before an extinction session showed decreased freezing response during extinction, and the effect of the 10 mg/kg dose on freezing persisted to the next day. When MPH (2.5-40 mg/kg) was administered immediately following an extinction session, mice that received MPH showed dose-dependent decreases in freezing during subsequent tests. MPH administered immediately after a 3-min extinction session or 4 h following the first extinction session did not cause significant differences in freezing. Together, these findings demonstrate that MPH can enhance extinction of fear and that this effect is sensitive to dose, time of injection, and duration of the extinction session. Because MPH is widely used in clinical treatments, these experiments suggest that the drug could be used in combination with behavioral therapies for patients with fear disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-72
Number of pages6
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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