27 March 2017

"Bath salt" drugs disrupt brain activity

3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) dose-dependently reduces functional connectivity with the nucleus accumbens (NAc) 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) dose-dependently reduces functional connectivity with the nucleus accumbens (NAc)

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers observe how cocaine-like drug disrupts neural activity in rats.

First, some background

The abuse of synthetic street drugs known as "bath salts" are a global health problem, with new variants emerging all the time. These are not the anodyne Epsom salts used for bathing, but rather potent, cocaine-like drugs.

What did the scientists discover?

At rest, the brain emits neural signals that reflect communication between different brain regions. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists observed that one of the most potent bath salt drugs (known as MDPV, PeeVee, or Super Coke) adversely affected these signals in rats, causing widespread disruption in brain connectivity.

Why is this important?

Disruption of important brain signals will almost certainly affect how different regions of their brains communicate with each other. It may even affect drug users’ abilities to comprehend their surroundings while intoxicated. Direct imaging of MDPV’s effects in the brain may one day lead to the development of treatments for intoxication and an understanding of the causes of impairments. It will also help inform the public on the short- and long-term effects of bath salts on brain function and structure. This pioneering work using high-field imaging techniques adds to our understanding of basic brain mechanisms.

Who did the research?

Luis M. Colon-Perez, Adriaan W. Bruijnzeel, Barry Setlow, Marcelo Febo

Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville

Why did they need the MagLab?


This research was conducted in the 4.7 Tesla 33 cm MRI/S System at the MagLab's AMRIS Facility located at the University of Florida.

This research was made possible by the availability of high-field fMRI systems for mapping brain signals in live rodents. The MagLab and AMRIS facilities are also moving this important research forward using other MRI and spectroscopic techniques.

Details for scientists


This research was funded by the following grants: G.S. Boebinger (NSF DMR-1157490); M. Febo (NIH DA038009)

For more information, contact Joanna Long.


  • Research Area: Biology
  • Research Initiatives: Life
  • Facility / Program: AMRIS
  • Year: 2017
Last modified on 27 March 2017