The Role of Serotonin

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        Serotonin is the most important part in the understanding of the influence of MDMA on neurotoxicity. When MDMA first enters the body, the systems which regulate the levels of activity and mood are most likely near or around normal. Everyone is different but the point is that the body is in control of its internal regulation and is attempting to stay within certain homeostatic parameters. When Ecstasy is ingested and eventually enters into the body’s systems, there is initially a massive release of serotonin from within the terminal buttons of the axons comprising the serotonergic system in the brain. The serotonergic system is just a fancy name for describing the collection of neurons which release serotonin. The system itself is quite large and travels extensively throughout the brain, influencing many different aspects of a person’s mood cycles, sleep, and eating habits. Serotonin is actually released in very small quantities by individual vesicles which act as a transport and recovery system for neurotransmitters within the neuron. When MDMA interacts with the serotonergic system it causes the individual vesicles to release the serotonin which they are carrying into the synapse between the terminal button and the dendrite of another neuron. This results in a higher than average concentration of serotonin in the synapse which will increase the probability of the neurotransmitter binding with the dendrite.

        Also, during the release of the serotonin there is a lesser, yet higher than average, release of the neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is implicated in the control and regulation of movement and its two major pathways are often referred to as the “pleasure pathways”. This fact sheds some light on the fluidity of movement and the increased feelings of happiness that people experience while taking MDMA.

        This picture represents an axon (top left, blue) and a dendrite (lower right, blue) with the synapse (middle, peach) in between the two. The many red E shaped objects are serotonin and as you can see there are a great many of them. Normally, the synapse has much less serotonin in it, but under the effects of MDMA the vesicles (top left, purple) will release much more than is normally needed.

        The full slide show can be viewed on and one click on the picture will take you to the beginning. The slide show takes the reader through the long process of how serotonin and dopamine work in the body, how MDMA affects these chemicals and how neurotoxicity is believed to occur. It is a very thurough presentation and very easy to understand.




Prevention of Neurotoxicity


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