The effects of binge MDMA on acquisition and reversal learning in a radial-arm maze task

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2011 May;95(4):473-83. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2011.02.010. Epub 2011 Mar 1.


The current study used the partially-baited radial-arm maze paradigm to study the effects of a single-treatment high-dose exposure ('binge') to MDMA (± 3,4-methylenedioxymethaphemtamine or 'Ecstasy') on memory task acquisition. Sprague-Dawley rats were administered a binge dose (4 × 10 mg/kg) of MDMA and their ability to subsequently acquire the radial-arm maze task was compared against saline controls. The MDMA-treated rats were significantly slower to learn the task and made more reference memory errors than the controls. Working memory function was found to be relatively unimpaired. Following a reversal of task rules the MDMA-treated rats were again significantly slower to acquire the appropriate rule despite having eventually achieved a similar level of overall performance as control rats. However evidence of drug tolerance was found when all rats were challenged with an acute low dose of MDMA (1 × 4.0 mg/kg) because the binge MDMA rats were relatively less impaired. Therefore, although binge treated MDMA rats were able to achieve very accurate performance equivalent to the controls they took significantly longer to do this and were less able to adapt their behavior to a change in task rules. In addition the binge treated MDMA rats displayed tolerance to acute MDMA exposure. These findings are consistent with the possibility that human Ecstasy users may show deficits in acquiring information and may experience deficits in cognitive flexibility as well as developing tolerance to the drug with repeated exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / drug effects
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Hallucinogens / poisoning*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects*
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / poisoning*
  • Rats
  • Reversal Learning / drug effects*
  • Spatial Behavior / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Hallucinogens
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine