Journal Article

Manganese-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging Reveals Differential Long-Term Neuroadaptation After Methamphetamine and the Substituted Cathinone 4-Methylmethcathinone (Mephedrone)

Bjørnar den Hollander, Mateusz Dudek, Ilkka Ojanperä, Esko Kankuri, Petri Hyytiä and Esa R Korpi

in International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Published on behalf of Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum

Volume 18, issue 6 Published in print April 2015 | ISSN: 1461-1457
Published online February 2015 | e-ISSN: 1469-5111 | DOI:

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  • Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry
  • Neuroscience


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In recent years there has been a large increase in the use of substituted cathinones such as mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone, 4-MMC), a psychostimulant drug that shows a strong resemblance to methamphetamine (METH). Unlike METH, which can produce clear long-term effects, the effects of 4-MMC have so far remained elusive. We employ manganese-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MEMRI), a highly sensitive method for detecting changes in neuronal activation, to investigate the effects of METH and 4-MMC on the brain.


In Wistar rats we performed a MEMRI scan two weeks after binge treatments (twice daily for 4 consecutive days) of METH (5mg/kg) or 4-MMC (30mg/kg). Furthermore, locomotor activity measurements and novel object recognition tests were performed.


METH produced a widespread pattern of decreased bilateral activity in several regions, including the nucleus accumbens, caudate putamen, globus pallidus, thalamus, and hippocampus, as well as several other cortical and subcortical areas. Conversely, 4-MMC produced increased bilateral activity, anatomically limited to the hypothalamus and hippocampus. Drug treatments did not affect the development of locomotor sensitization or novel object recognition performance.


The pattern of decreased brain activity seen after METH corresponds closely to regions known to be affected by this drug and confirms the validity of MEMRI for detecting neuroadaptation two weeks after amphetamine binge treatment. 4-MMC, unlike METH, produced increased activity in a limited number of different brain regions. This highlights an important difference in the long-term effects of these drugs on neural function and shows precisely the anatomical localization of 4-MMC–induced neuroadaptation.

Keywords: 4-methylmethcathinone; magnetic resonance imaging; mephedrone; methamphetamine; psychostimulants

Journal Article.  7305 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics ; Neurology ; Psychiatry ; Neuroscience

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