Rationale: Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is known to damage brain pre-synaptic serotonin (5-HT) neurons. Since loss of 5-HT neurons has been implicated in memory loss, it is important to establish whether MDMA use may produce changes in postsynaptic 5-HT receptors and memory function in humans.
Objectives: To investigate whether MDMA use leads to compensative alterations in post-synaptic 5-HT2A receptors and whether there is a relation with memory disturbances.
Methods: Brain cortical 5-HT2A receptor densities were studied with [123I]-5-I-R91150 SPECT in five abstinent MDMA users and nine healthy controls. Memory performance was assessed using RAVLT.
Results: [123I]-5-I-R91150 binding ratios were significantly higher in the occipital cortex of MDMA users than in controls, indicating up-regulation. Mean cortical 5-HT2A receptor binding correlated positively with RAVLT-recall in MDMA users.
Conclusion: Our preliminary results may indicate altered 5-HT neuronal function with correlated memory impairment in abstinent MDMA users.