Constructing the ecstasy of MDMA from its component mental organs: Proposing the primer/probe method.
Ray TS
1 Department of Biology, University of Oklahoma,
Norman, OK 73069, United States. Electronic address:
Med Hypotheses. 2016 Feb;87:48-60. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2015.12.018. Epub 2015 Dec 23.


The drug MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, produces a specific and distinct open hearted mental state, which led to the creation of a new pharmacological class, "entactogens". Extensive literature on its mechanisms of action has come to characterize MDMA as a "messy" drug with multiple mechanisms, but the consensus is that the distinctive entactogenic effects arise from the release of neurotransmitters, primarily serotonin. I propose an alternative hypothesis: The entactogenic mental state is due to the simultaneous direct activation of imidazoline-1 (I1) and serotonin-2 (5-HT2) receptors by MDMA. This hypothesis emerges from "mental organ" theory, which embodies many hypotheses, the most relevant of which are: "Mental organs" are populations of neurons that all express their defining metabotropic receptor, and each mental organ plays a distinct role in the mind, a role shaped by evolution as mental organs evolve by duplication and divergence. Mental organs are the mechanism by which evolution sculpts the mind. Mental organs can be in or out of consciousness. In order for a mental organ to enter consciousness, three things must happen: The mental organ must be activated directly at its defining receptor. 5-HT2 must be simultaneously activated. One of the functions of activated 5-HT2 is to load other simultaneously activated mental organs fully into consciousness. In some cases THC must be introduced to remove long-term blocks mediated by the cannabinoid system. I propose the "primer/probe" method to test these hypotheses. A "primer" is a drug that selectively activates 5-HT2 (e.g. DOB or MEM) or serotonin-1 (5-HT1) and 5-HT2 (e.g. DOET or 2C-B-fly). A "probe" is a drug that activates a receptor whose corresponding mental organ we wish to load into consciousness in order to understand its role in the mind. The mental organ is loaded into consciousness when the primer and probe are taken together, but not when taken separately. For example, the blood pressure medications rilmenidine and moxonidine are selective for imidazoline-1 and can be used to test the hypothesis that the entactogenic mental effects of MDMA are due to loading the imidazoline-1 mental organ into consciousness. The primer/probe method is not limited to testing the specific hypothesis about MDMA and imidazoline, but is a general method for studying the role of mental organs in the mind. For example, the role of dopamine mental organs can be studied by using Parkinson's drugs such as ropinirole or pramipexole as probes.

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