Brain regional substrates for the actions of the novel wake-promoting agent modafinil in the rat: comparison with amphetamine

Neuroscience. 1998 Dec;87(4):905-11. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(98)00015-3.


Modafinil is a novel wake-promoting compound for which the mechanism and sites of action are unknown. We examined the neural substrates in the brain for the actions of modafinil using 2-deoxyglucose autoradiography and compared the findings to those obtained with amphetamine. Modafinil showed a relatively restricted pattern of changes in brain regional metabolic activity, while amphetamine altered glucose utilization in a wide variety of brain regions. Both modafinil and amphetamine increased glucose utilization in all subregions of the hippocampus (subiculum, CA1-CA3 and dentate gyrus) and in the centrolateral nucleus of the thalamus. Modafinil also increased glucose utilization in the central nucleus of the amygdala, but amphetamine had no effect in this region. Brain structures in which amphetamine increased metabolic rate but modafinil had no effect included regions of the basal ganglia, other nuclei of the thalamus, the frontal cortex, the nucleus accumbens, the ventral tegmental area and the pontine reticular fields. These findings suggest that, while both modafinil and amphetamine promote wakefulness, they act via distinctly different mechanisms. Modafinil appears to act on a specific subset of brain pathways which regulate sleep and wakefulness, whereas amphetamine affects a greater number of cerebral structures involved in the regulation of these behavioral states. Modafinil also lacks the pronounced effects on the extrapyramidal motor system which are characteristic of amphetamine and other psychomotor stimulants, implying that the effects of modafinil are not mediated by the dopamine system and that modafinil may selectively increase wakefulness with fewer side effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / drug effects*
  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Deoxyglucose*
  • Dextroamphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Modafinil
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Wakefulness / drug effects*


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Deoxyglucose
  • Glucose
  • Modafinil
  • Dextroamphetamine