Modafinil Evokes Striatal [(3)H]Dopamine Release and Alters the Subjective Properties of Stimulants

Tomas Thorne

Last Updated: February 2, 2023

Modafinil - Dopamine


Modafinil is a mild psychostimulant used for the treatment of sleep and arousal-related disorders, and has been considered a pharmacotherapy for cocaine and amphetamine dependence; however, modafinil’s mechanism of action is largely unclear. The present study investigated modafinil using drug discrimination and slice superfusion techniques. Rats were trained to discriminate cocaine (1.6 or 5 mg/kg) or amphetamine (0.3 mg/kg) from saline injection for food reinforcement. Modafinil (64-128 mg/kg) substituted partially for both cocaine doses and amphetamine. Pretreatment with a lower modafinil dose (32 mg/kg) augmented the discriminative stimulus properties of cocaine (1.6 mg/kg dose group) and amphetamine. In neurochemical experiments, modafinil (100-300 muM) evoked [(3)H]overflow from rat striatal slices preloaded with [(3)H]dopamine in a concentration-dependent manner; however, modafinil was less potent and efficacious than amphetamine and nicotine. The dopamine transporter inhibitor nomifensine (10 muM) blocked modafinil-evoked [(3)H]overflow, and concentrations of modafinil (<100 muM) that did not have intrinsic activity attenuated amphetamine (1 and 3 muM)-evoked [(3)H]overflow. Modafinil-evoked [(3)H]overflow was not altered by the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist mecamylamine, and modafinil did not alter nicotine-evoked [(3)H]overflow, indicating that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors likely are not important for modafinil’s mechanism of action. The present results indicate that modafinil evokes dopamine release from striatal neurons and is a psychostimulant that is pharmacologically similar to, but much less potent and efficacious than, amphetamine.


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