Blockade of 5-HT(2) receptor selectively prevents MDMA-induced verbal memory impairment

J.H.P. van Wel*, K.P.C. Kuypers, E.L. Theunissen, W.M. Bosker, K. Bakker, J.G. Ramaekers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) or 'ecstasy' has been associated with memory deficits during abstinence and intoxication. The human neuropharmacology of MDMA-induced memory impairment is unknown. This study investigated the role of 5-HT(2A) and 5-HT(1A) receptors in MDMA-induced memory impairment. Ketanserin is a 5-HT(2A) receptor blocker and pindolol a 5-HT(1A) receptor blocker. It was hypothesized that pretreatment with ketanserin and pindolol would protect against MDMA-induced memory impairment. Subjects (N=17) participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject design involving six experimental conditions consisting of pretreatment (T1) and treatment (T2). T1 preceded T2 by 30 min. T1-T2 combinations were: placebo-placebo, pindolol 20 mg-placebo, ketanserin 50 mg-placebo, placebo-MDMA 75 mg, pindolol 20 mg-MDMA 75 mg, and ketanserin 50 mg-MDMA 75 mg. Memory function was assessed at Tmax of MDMA by means of a word-learning task (WLT), a spatial memory task and a prospective memory task. MDMA significantly impaired performance in all memory tasks. Pretreatment with a 5-HT(2A) receptor blocker selectively interacted with subsequent MDMA treatment and prevented MDMA-induced impairment in the WLT, but not in the spatial and prospective memory task. Pretreatment with a 5-HT(1A) blocker did not affect MDMA-induced memory impairment in any of the tasks. Together, the results demonstrate that MDMA-induced impairment of verbal memory as measured in the WLT is mediated by 5-HT(2A) receptor stimulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1932-1939
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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