Cerebral (1)H MRS alterations in recreational 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "ecstasy") users

J Magn Reson Imaging. 1999 Oct;10(4):521-6. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1522-2586(199910)10:4<521::aid-jmri4>3.0.co;2-9.


3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is an illicit drug that has been associated with serotonergic axonal degeneration in animals. This study evaluates neurochemical abnormalities in recreational MDMA users. Twenty-two MDMA users and 37 normal subjects were evaluated with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H MRS) in the mid-frontal, mid-occipital, and parietal brain regions. (1)H MRS showed normal N-acetyl (NA) compounds in all brain regions. The myo-inositol (MI) concentration (+16.3%, P = 0.04) and the MI to creatine (CR) ratio (+14.1%, P = 0. 01) were increased in the parietal white matter of MDMA users. The cumulative lifetime MDMA dose showed significant effects on [MI] in the parietal white matter and the occipital cortex. The normal NA concentration suggests a lack of significant neuronal injury in recreational MDMA users. However, the usage-related increase in MI suggests that exposure to MDMA, even at recreational doses, may cause increased glial content. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 1999;10:521-526.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Aspartic Acid / analysis
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Choline / analysis
  • Creatine / analysis
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Inositol / analysis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / adverse effects*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology


  • Hallucinogens
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Inositol
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • Creatine
  • Choline