Synthetic cathinones are used for their stimulant-like properties. Stimulant-induced neurochemical changes are thought to occur at different times in different brain regions and neurotransmitter systems. This study sought to examine the behavioral and neurochemical effects of α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (α-PVP) and mephedrone (4MMC) in female rats. Methods probed the chronology of effects of synthetic cathinone exposure. Female rats were trained to self-administer α-PVP, 4MMC, or saline. Drug exposure ceased after 7 days of autoshaping for half of each drug group; the other half self-administered for another 21 days. Amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, PFC, striatum, and thalamus were extracted, and tissue was analyzed with electrochemical detection and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. Responding was minimal during autoshaping; thus, most infusions were delivered noncontingently in the autoshaping phase. Rats acquired self-administration of α-PVP and 4MMC. Synthetic cathinone administration, and duration of exposure produced several effects on neurotransmitters. α-PVP primarily increased serotonin, 5-hydroxy-3-acetic acid (5-HIAA), norepinephrine, and glutamate in hypothalamus. In contrast, 4MMC decreased serotonin and 5-HIAA in several brain regions. Longer durations of exposure to both synthetic cathinones increased 5-HIAA, norepinephrine, and glutamate in multiple brain regions compared to the short exposure during autoshaping. Notably, both α-PVP and 4MMC produced minimal changes in dopamine levels, suggesting that the dopaminergic effects of these synthetic cathinones are transient. These alterations in neurotransmitter levels indicate that synthetic cathinone use may produce differential neurochemical changes during the transition from use to abuse.
Synthetic cathinone self-administration in female rats modulates neurotransmitter levels in addiction-related brain regions