MDMA alters the response of the circadian clock
to a photic and non-photic stimulus

by
Colbron S, Jones M, Biello SM.
Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow,
58 Hillhead Street, G12 8QB, Glasgow, UK
Med Sci Monit 2001 Nov-Dec;7(6):1292-8


ABSTRACT

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or 'Ecstasy') is a widely used recreational drug that damages serotonin 5-HT neurons in animals and possibly humans. Published literature has shown that the serotonergic system is involved in photic and non-photic phase shifting of the circadian clock, which is located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei. Despite the dense innervation of the circadian system by 5-HT and the known selective neurotoxicity of MDMA, little is known about the effects of MDMA on the circadian oscillator. This study investigated whether repeated exposure to the serotonin neurotoxin MDMA alters the behavioural response of the Syrian hamster to phase shift to the serotonin 5-HT1A/7 receptor agonist 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino) tetralin hydrobromide (8-OH-DPAT). This agonist was administered under an Aschoff Type I (CT8) and Aschoff Type II (ZT8) paradigm (5 mg/kg) and was given before and after treatment with MDMA (10, 15 and 20 mg/kg administered on successive days). Pre-treatment with MDMA significantly attenuated phase shifts to 8-OH-DPAT. We also tested the ability of the clock to phase shift to a photic stimulus after treatment with MDMA. A 15-min light pulse (mean lux 125 at CT14 or ZT14) was administered before and after treatment with MDMA. Phase shifts to a photic stimulus were significantly attenuated by pre-treatment with MDMA. Our study demonstrates that repeated exposure to MDMA may alter the ability of the circadian clock to phase shift to a photic and non-photic stimulus in the hamster. Disruption of circadian function has been linked with a variety of clinical conditions such as sleep disorders, mood, concentration difficulties and depression, consequently outlining the potential dangers of long-term ecstasy use.

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Refs
and further reading

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Critique of Huxley's Brave New World

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