Effects of (±)3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) on brain dopaminergic activity in rats

Robert T. Matthews, Thomas H. Champney, Gerald D. Frye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Acute treatment with (±)3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) at high doses (10 and 30 mg/kg, IP), but not lower doses increased locomotor activity in male rats. MDMA did not consistently produce any other stereotyped behaviors at any dose. Dopamine (DA) turnover rate as estimated by the ratio of brain tissue levels of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) over DA was decreased in the striatum for up to two hours after acute treatment with 10 mg/kg of MDMA. DA turnover rate was inconsistently decreased in the olfactory tubercle and medial basal hypothalamus, and was unchanged in the medial prefrontal cortex and the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area. Two hours after a 30 mg/kg injection of MDMA, DA turnover rate was decreased in all brain areas tested. MDMA and d-amphetamine partially reversed a haloperidol-induced elevation of striatal DOPAC levels. In contrast, the nonamphetamine stimulant, amfonelic acid, enhanced haloperidol's effect. In chloral hydrate-anesthesized rats, MDMA injected IV partially inhibited spontaneous firing rate of DA neurons in the substantia nigra (34% decrease at 4 mg/kg of MDMA). Seventeen days after subchronic MDMA treatment (10 or 20 mg/kg, IP, twice per day for four days), DA and DOPAC levels were unchaged in all brain areas tested as compared to levels in control rats. It is concluded that acute treatment with high but not low doses of MDMA has a weak amphetamine-like effect on nigrostriatal as well as mesolimbic/mesocortical and tuberoinfundibular DA neurons in rats. Repeated treatment with MDMA does not appear to be toxic to mesotelencephalic or tuberoinfundibular DA neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-747
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Amfonelic acid
  • D-Amphetamine
  • DA neuron activity
  • DOPAC/DA ratio
  • Dopamine
  • Haloperidol
  • Locomotor activity
  • MDMA
  • Mesocortical/mesolimbic
  • Nigrostriatal
  • Tuberoinfundibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology


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