A role for oxytocin and 5-HT1A receptors in the prosocial effects of 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine ("ecstasy")

M. R. Thompson, P. D. Callaghan, G. E. Hunt, J. L. Cornish, I. S. McGregor*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    163 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The drug 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; ecstasy) has a widely documented ability to increase feelings of love and closeness toward others. The present study investigated whether oxytocin, a neuropeptide involved in affiliative behavior, may play a role in this effect. A moderate (5 mg/kg, i.p.) dose of MDMA increased social interaction in male Wistar rats, primarily by increasing the amount of time rats spent lying adjacent to each other. MDMA (5 mg/kg) activated oxytocin-containing neurons in the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei of the hypothalamus, as shown by Fos immunohistochemistry. MDMA (5 mg/kg i.p.) also increased plasma oxytocin levels and this effect was prevented by pre-treatment with the 5-HT1A antagonist N-[2-[4-(2-methyoxyphenyl)-1-piperazinyl]ethyl]-N-2-pyridinylcyclohexanecarboxamide maleate salt (WAY 100,635; 1 mg/kg i.p.). The oxytocin receptor antagonist tocinoic acid (20 μg, i.c.v.) had no effect on social behavior when given alone but significantly attenuated the facilitation of social interaction produced by MDMA (5 mg/kg). The 5-HT1A agonist 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)-tetraline) (8-OH-DPAT, 0.25 mg/kg, i.p.) increased social behavior in a similar way to MDMA and this effect was also significantly attenuated by tocinoic acid. Taken together, these results suggest that oxytocin release, stimulated by MDMA through 5-HT1A receptors, may play a key role in the prosocial effects of MDMA and underlie some of the reinforcing effects of the drug.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)509-514
    Number of pages6
    JournalNeuroscience
    Volume146
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2007

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