MDMA (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is an illicit, recreational drug known by many individuals as ‘Ecstasy.’ MDMA has gained popularity over the past decade and has become a drug of choice at dance parties and clubs because of the stimulating and hallucinogenic effects that it has on the central nervous system. Scientists have determined that MDMA causes neurotoxic damage to adults by harming the serotonergic system in the adult brain. Researchers discovered that embryos exposed to MDMA while in utero also suffer neurotoxic deficits, although not due to impairments in the embryos’ serotonergic systems. These deficits arise because of the cortisol increase that is found in adults after ingestion of MDMA, which can be transmitted to a developing fetus and thereby lead to a reprogramming of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in the fetus. In addition, MDMA can ca use changes in the norepinephrine and/or dopamine systems in a developing fetus and thus create lasting neurological damage. MDMA-induced elevation of Atg5, a protein involved in autophagy, leads to teratogenesis in a developing fetus by inhibiting neuronal growth and differentiation. In another vein, 3, 4-Dihydroxymethamphetamine (HHMA) and malondialdehyde (MDA), two main metabolites of MDMA, have toxic effects on an embryo and are another mechanism via which Ecstasy can cause impairments in the fetal brain. While these and other hypotheses are currently under much investigation, scientists are approaching this topic with the understanding that it is most probably an interplay of many biological changes that result from fetal exposure to MDMA that together create the neurological defects observed in these fetuses. The various aspects of MDMA and the damage it can have on a fetus have been researched by the author using the Touro database and various links to journals and articles that this database provided.
Schneeweiss, L. (2015). Biological Reasons for the Neurotoxic Effects of MDMA (‘Ecstasy’) on the Developing Fetus. The Science Journal of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences, 9(1). Retrieved from https://touroscholar.touro.edu/sjlcas/vol9/iss1/5