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RATIONALE: MDMA is a popular drug of abuse in adolescents which causes serotonergic neurotoxicity in adult but not young rodents. However, few studies have examined the long-term behavioural consequence of MDMA and it is unclear whether such changes occur in the absence of neurotoxicity. OBJECTIVES: The present study examined whether treatment of young rats with MDMA produced long-term behavioural alterations without accompanying serotonergic neurotoxicity. METHOD: Male Lister hooded rats ( n=36, postnatal day (PND) 39) received MDMA (7.5 mg/kg i.p., twice daily for 3 days) or saline (l ml/kg i.p.) and the acute effect on open field behaviour and body temperature was monitored. Following drug withdrawal, social interaction in pre-treatment- and weight-matched rat pairs, cortical [(3)H]paroxetine binding and hippocampal and frontal cortical serotonin and dopamine levels (PND 53, n=12) and conditioned place preference (PND 70, n=24) to cocaine (5 mg/kg IP) were analysed. RESULTS: MDMA elicited the expected immediate serotonin syndrome with significant hyperlocomotion, decreased rearing and hypothermia. Twelve to 29 days after the last MDMA injection social interaction was significantly attenuated (by 41%) and the sub-threshold conditioned place preference to cocaine was significantly enhanced compared with that in saline controls, although no significant side preference to cocaine occurred in the latter. MDMA pre-treatment did not alter 5-HT levels or cortical [(3)H]paroxetine binding. CONCLUSION: MDMA administration to adolescent rats reduced social interaction and enhanced the sub-threshold rewarding effect of cocaine at adulthood, despite an absence of accompanying serotonergic and dopaminergic neurotoxicity.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychopharmacology (Berl)

Publication Date





437 - 444


Age Factors, Animals, Body Temperature, Brain, Dopamine, Exploratory Behavior, Male, Motor Activity, N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine, Rats, Reward, Serotonin, Serotonin Agents, Time Factors