RATIONALE: Synthetic cathinones ("bath salts") are β-ketone analogs of amphetamines, yet few studies have examined their potential neurotoxic effects.
OBJECTIVE: In the current study, we assessed the persistent behavioral and neurochemical effects of exposure to the second-generation synthetic cathinone α-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (α-PPP).
METHODS: Male, Swiss-Webster mice were exposed to α-PPP (80 mg/kg) using a binge-like dosing regimen (QID, q2h). Behavior was assessed 4-5 days after the dosing regimen, and neurochemistry was assessed the following day. Behavior was studied using the elevated plus maze, Y-maze, and novel object recognition tests. Regional levels of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and the major dopamine metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) were determined in the prefrontal cortex and striatum using high-pressure liquid chromatography. Additional experiments assessed the time courses of the effects of α-PPP on locomotor activity and core temperature using telemetry.
RESULTS: Exposure to α-PPP significantly impaired performance in the Y-maze, decreased overall exploratory activity in the novel object recognition test, and resulted in regionally specific depletions in monoamine neurochemistry. In contrast, it had no significant effect on elevated plus maze performance or object discrimination in the novel object recognition test. The locomotor-stimulant effects of α-PPP were comparable to cocaine (30 mg/kg), and α-PPP (80 mg/kg) did not induce hyperthermia.
CONCLUSIONS: α-PPP exposure results in persistent changes in exploratory behavior, spatial working memory, and monoamine neurochemistry. This research highlights potential dangers of α-PPP, including potential neurotoxicity, and suggests that the mechanisms underlying the persistent untoward effects of the cathinones may be distinct from those of the amphetamines.