An analysis of spontaneous behavior following acute MDMA treatment in male and female rats.

: 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) is a widely abused drug that impairs behavioral, emotional and cognitive functions in humans and animals. The aim of this study was to evaluate MDMA effects on the spontaneous behavioral repertoire of rats with a focus on the gender differences. MDMA was given subcutaneously in a single dose of 2.5, 5 and 10 mg/kg and the spontaneous behavior of male and female rats was studied using the open field test. Behavioral patterns (locomotion, rearing, floor-sniffing, air-sniffing, grooming, immobility and stereotypy) were registered in two sessions - 30 and 60 min following MDMA administration; each session lasting 5 min. We found that MDMA totally disrupted the structure and timing of spontaneous behavioral patterns in both genders; no evident differences were measured between either of the sessions. MDMA irrespective of the dosage produced hyperlocomotion, excessive floor-sniffing and almost absolute suppression of grooming and immobility. A biphasic effect of MDMA was found in rearing. Gender differences were present namely in rearing and sniffing stereotypy. This study also confirms that behavioral experiments should focus on more behavioral elements than only on e.g. locomotion and that the observer-based approach still gives the most reliable results.

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