Researchers who have studied the effects of MDMA in the brain have focused mainly on the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Given the nature of MDMA, this is not surprising. MDMA produces effects that are characteristic of both psychedelics and amphetamines. Since the effects of LSD, the most popular psychedelic, have been related to serotonin activity, clever scientists would assume that similar effects result from similar changes, and examine serotonin in relation to MDMA. Likewise dopamine, which is known to be affected by amphetamines like cocaine, would be a likely target for further investigation. Thus far, researchers have found a lot of evidence to support the theory that the behavioral effects of MDMA are caused by the way in which it interacts with serotonin and dopamine.

When discussing the effects of drugs on neurotransmitters there are three main questions to consider:

  1. What are the structural and chemical properties of the neurotransmitter?

  2. Which areas of the brain are affected by the neurotransmitter, and what properties are associated with these areas?

  3. How do the effects of the drug in these areas create changes in behavior?
To find the answers to these questions for serotonin and dopamine, click on the links below: