Ecstasy: are animal data consistent between species and can they translate to humans?J Psychopharmacol. 2006 Mar; 20(2):194-210.JP
The number of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy or MDMA) animal research articles is rapidly increasing and yet studies which place emphasis on the clinical significance are limited due to a lack of reliable human data. MDMA produces an acute, rapid release of brain serotonin and dopamine in experimental animals and in the rat this is associated with increased locomotor activity and the serotonin behavioural syndrome in rats. MDMA causes dose-dependent hyperthermia, which is potentially fatal, in humans, primates and rodents. Subsequent serotonergic neurotoxicity has been demonstrated by biochemical and histological studies and is reported to last for months in rats and years in non-human primates. Relating human data to findings in animals is complicated by reports that MDMA exposure in mice produces selective long-term dopaminergic impairment with no effect on serotonin. This review compares data obtained from animal and human studies and examines the acute physiological, behavioural and biochemical effects of MDMA as well as the long-term behavioural effects together with serotonergic and dopaminergic impairments. Consideration is also given to the role of neurotoxic metabolites and the influence of age, sex and user groups on the long-term actions of MDMA.