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A Three-Way Drug Discrimination Study: A Role for DA-Mediated Effects in MDMA's Discriminative Cue Properties

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posted on 2021-11-12, 19:30 authored by Langen, Anna-Lena

While 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) shares many similarities with amphetamine, previous two choice drug discrimination procedures have shown that substitution between the two substances is inconsistent. Three choice drug discrimination procedures have revealed that MDMA can be discriminated from amphetamine, due to MDMA’s primary influence in releasing 5-HT. Neurochemical evidence had previously suggested that at doses >3.0mg/kg MDMA-induced dopamine (DA) release will increase significantly. In the current study rats were trained to discriminate MDMA from amphetamine and saline. As the dose of MDMA increased beyond the training dose (>1.5mg/kg) MDMA-appropriate responding decreased, while the proportion of amphetamine lever responding increased and eventually surpassed MDMA-appropriate responding at the highest dose (4.5mg/kg). This would indicate an important role for DA mediated influences in MDMA’s discriminative cue properties. Further evidence for this conclusion comes from tests with the D1 antagonist SCH23390 and the D2 antagonist eticlopride which attenuated this effect and also led to a nonsignificant increase in the proportion of saline lever responding. Subsequent tests with the 5-HT2c antagonist RS102221resulted in no significant dose dependent changes, but appeared to reduce MDMA-appropriate responding especially at the training dose. The current findings would suggest that low doses of MDMA are discriminable from amphetamine, however with increasing doses MDMA will be perceived as more “amphetamine-like”. These findings could suggest that at relatively high doses MDMA produces effects that are typically associated with dopamine-releasing drugs, such as high abuse potential.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Harper, David