High ambient temperature increases 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "ecstasy")-induced Fos expression in a region-specific manner

G. A. Hargreaves, G. E. Hunt, J. L. Cornish, I. S. McGregor*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    39 Citations (Scopus)


    3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "Ecstasy") is a popular drug that is often taken under hot conditions at dance clubs. High ambient temperature increases MDMA-induced hyperthermia and recent studies suggest that high temperatures may also enhance the rewarding and prosocial effects of MDMA in rats. The present study investigated whether ambient temperature influences MDMA-induced expression of Fos, a marker of neural activation. Male Wistar rats received either MDMA (10 mg/kg i.p.) or saline, and were placed in test chambers for 2 h at either 19 or 30 °C. MDMA caused significant hyperthermia at 30 °C and a modest hypothermia at 19 °C. The 30 °C ambient temperature had little effect on Fos expression in vehicle-treated rats. However MDMA-induced Fos expression was augmented in 15 of 30 brain regions at the high temperature. These regions included (1) sites associated with thermoregulation such as the median preoptic nucleus, dorsomedial hypothalamus and raphe pallidus, (2) the supraoptic nucleus, a region important for osmoregulation and a key mediator of oxytocin and vasopressin release, (3) the medial and central nuclei of the amygdala, important in the regulation of social and emotional behaviors, and (4) the shell of the nucleus accumbens and (anterior) ventral tegmental area, regions associated with the reinforcing effects of MDMA. MDMA-induced Fos expression was unaffected by ambient temperature at many other sites, and was diminished at high temperature at one site (the islands of Calleja), suggesting that the effect of temperature on MDMA-induced Fos expression was not a general pharmacokinetic effect. Overall, these results indicate that high temperatures accentuate key neural effects of MDMA and this may help explain the widespread use of the drug under hot conditions at dance parties as well as the more hazardous nature of MDMA taken under such conditions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)764-774
    Number of pages11
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2007


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