Comparing rewarding and reinforcing properties between ‘bath salt’ 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and cocaine using ultrasonic vocalizations in rats

Steven J. Simmons, Ryan A. Gregg, Fionya H. Tran, Lili Mo, Eva von Weltin, David J. Barker, Taylor A. Gentile, Lucas R. Watterson, Scott M. Rawls, John W. Muschamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Abuse of synthetic psychostimulants like synthetic cathinones has risen in recent years. 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) is one such synthetic cathinone that demonstrates a mechanism of action similar to cocaine. Compared to cocaine, MDPV is more potent at blocking dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake and is readily self-administered by rodents. The present study compared the rewarding and reinforcing properties of MDPV and cocaine using systemic injection dose-response and self-administration models. Fifty kilohertz ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) were recorded as an index of positive affect throughout experiments. In Experiment 1, MDPV and cocaine dose-dependently elicited 50-kHz USVs upon systemic injection, but MDPV increased USVs at greater rates and with greater persistence relative to cocaine. In Experiment 2, latency to begin MDPV self-administration was shorter than latency to begin cocaine self-administration, and self-administered MDPV elicited greater and more persistent rates of 50-kHz USVs versus cocaine. MDPV-elicited 50-kHz USVs were sustained over the course of drug load-up whereas cocaine-elicited USVs waned following initial infusions. Notably, we observed a robust presence of context-elicited 50-kHz USVs from both MDPV and cocaine self-administering rats. Collectively, these data suggest that MDPV has powerfully rewarding and reinforcing effects relative to cocaine at one-tenth doses. Consistent with prior work, we additionally interpret these data in supporting that MDPV has significant abuse risk based on its potency and subjectively positive effects. Future studies will be needed to better refine therapeutic strategies targeted at reducing the rewarding effects of cathinone analogs in efforts to ultimately reduce abuse liability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-110
Number of pages9
JournalAddiction Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone
  • affect
  • cocaine
  • self-administration
  • synthetic cathinone
  • ultrasonic vocalizations

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Comparing rewarding and reinforcing properties between ‘bath salt’ 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and cocaine using ultrasonic vocalizations in rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this