Behavioural and neurochemical comparison of chronic intermittent cathinone, mephedrone and MDMA administration to the rat

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Sep;23(9):1085-95. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2012.09.005. Epub 2012 Oct 7.


The synthetic cathinone derivative, mephedrone, is a controlled substance across Europe. Its effects have been compared by users to 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), but little data exist on its pharmacological properties. This study compared the behavioural and neurochemical effects of mephedrone with cathinone and MDMA in rats. Young-adult male Lister hooded rats received i.p. cathinone (1 or 4 mg/kg), mephedrone (1, 4 or 10mg/kg) or MDMA (10mg/kg) on two consecutive days weekly for 3 weeks or as a single acute injection (for neurochemical analysis). Locomotor activity (LMA), novel object discrimination (NOD), conditioned emotional response (CER) and prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle response (PPI) were measured following intermittent drug administration. Dopamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and their major metabolites were measured in striatum, frontal cortex and hippocampus by high performance liquid chromatography 7 days after intermittent dosing and 2h after acute injection. Cathinone (1, 4 mg/kg), mephedrone (10mg/kg) and MDMA (10mg/kg) induced hyperactivity following the first and sixth injections and sensitization to cathinone and mephedrone occurred with chronic dosing. All drugs impaired NOD and mephedrone (10mg/kg) reduced freezing in response to contextual re-exposure during the CER retention trial. Acute MDMA reduced hippocampal 5-HT and 5-HIAA but the only significant effect on dopamine, 5-HT and their metabolites following chronic dosing was altered hippocampal 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), following mephedrone (4, 10mg/kg) and MDMA. At the doses examined, mephedrone, cathinone, and MDMA induced similar effects on behaviour and failed to induce neurotoxic damage when administered intermittently over 3 weeks.

Keywords: 5-HT; Cathinone; Dopamine; Locomotion; MDMA; Mephedrone.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / administration & dosage*
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / administration & dosage
  • Methamphetamine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / administration & dosage*
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats


  • Alkaloids
  • Methamphetamine
  • cathinone
  • mephedrone
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine