Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Lisa Baker

Second Advisor

Michael Berquist II

Third Advisor

Cynthia Pietras


Behavioral sensitization, synthetic cathinones, bath salts, 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, 4-methylmethcathinone


Recreational use of a new class of stimulant drugs known as synthetic cathinones is a recent public health concern. Although the Drug Enforcement Administration placed several of the most common of these substances permanently on schedule 1, their use is still prevalent as they remain low cost, accessible, and potent. Concomitant use of cathinone derivatives with other psychostimulant drugs is commonly reported by recreational users. Despite the prevalence of synthetic cathinone abuse, there is currently a paucity of scientific research regarding the behavioral and neurochemical effects of these drugs in mixtures with other drugs of abuse. The behavioral sensitization paradigm is a preclinical tool that can be used to assess the influence of prior drug exposure on sensitivity to the behavioral effects of another drug. Utilizing this paradigm, the present study assessed the combined locomotor stimulant effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and a common bath salt constituent, 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC). Male Sprague-Dawley rats (N=120) were randomly assigned to one of 15 treatment groups (N=8) and administered intraperitoneal injections of one of the following treatments once per day for seven consecutive days: saline, 3 mg/kg MDMA, 4-MMC (1 or 5 mg/kg), 3 mg/kg MDMA+4-MMC (1.0 or 5.0 mg/kg). A 10 day drug-free incubation period followed, after which rats were challenged with a single I.P. injection of either saline, 4-MMC (1.0 or 5.0 mg/kg), or 3 mg/kg MDMA. On treatment days 1 and 7, and during the post-incubation challenge test, locomotor activity was monitored for one hour immediately before and one hour immediately after injections. Results indicate 4-MMC alone failed to induce behavioral sensitization, but when combined with MDMA, the induction of sensitization was greater than that produced by MDMA alone. These findings suggest the possibility of increased abuse liability of 4-MMC when used concurrently with MDMA or following prior MDMA use.

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