Ecstasy-exposed pups also showed modest decreases in dopamine metabolism in brain structures that play key roles in reward, addiction, learning, and movement. There also was a reduction in serotonin metabolism. Serotonin also is a brain chemical that helps to regulate mood, sleep, and appetite," Lipton reported. “Interestingly, the reductions in dopamine and serotonin metabolism that were observed in the nucleus accumbens were evident in male, but not female, pups suggesting gender differences in vulnerability to some of the Ecstasy’s prenatal effects.”
The Chicago study also revealed behavioral changes in the animals.
“When the Ecstasy-exposed pups were placed in a new environment away from their littermates, they spent significantly more time exploring, signifying they did not adjust as easily to the new environment as the control animals,” the authors said.
“Our findings show that exposing rats to Ecstasy at a time of prenatal development that correlates with the first trimester in humans may result in lasting changes in brain chemistry and behavior,” said Dr. Lipton. "Our findings also suggest that MDMA exposure may result in hyperactivity or deficits in attention or learning.
Further research is needed to learn more about the effects of prenatal exposure to this drug."