Long-term effects of stimulant exposure on cerebral blood flow response to methylphenidate and behavior in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Anouk Schrantee, C. Bouziane, E. E. Bron, S. Klein, M. A. Bottelier, J. J. S. Kooij, S. A. R. B. Rombouts, L. Reneman

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Stimulant prescription rates for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are increasing, even though potential long-term effects on the developing brain have not been well-studied. A previous randomized clinical trial showed short-term age-dependent effects of stimulants on the DA system. We here assessed the long-term modifying effects of age-of-first-stimulant treatment on the human brain and behavior. 81 male adult ADHD patients were stratified into three groups: 1) early stimulant treatment (EST; <16 years of age) 2) late stimulant treatment (LST: ≥23 years of age) and 3) stimulant treatment naive (STN; no history of stimulant treatment). We used pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging (phMRI) to assess the cerebral blood flow (CBF) response to an oral methylphenidate challenge (MPH, 0.5 mg/kg), as an indirect measure of dopamine function in fronto-striatal areas. In addition, mood and anxiety scores, and recreational drug use were assessed. Baseline ACC CBF was lower in the EST than the STN group (p = 0.03), although CBF response to MPH was similar between the three groups (p = 0.23). ADHD symptom severity was higher in the STN group compared to the other groups (p < 0.01). In addition, the EST group reported more depressive symptoms (p = 0.04), but not anxiety (p = 0.26), and less recreational drug use (p = 0.04). In line with extensive pre-clinical data, our data suggest that early, but not late, stimulant treatment long-lastingly affects the human brain and behavior, possibly indicating fundamental changes in the dopamine system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-410
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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