Neurobiology underlying the prosocial effects of MDMA
Ecstasy (MDMA) is a psychoactive substance with unique properties as it acutely induces facilitation of social behaviour i.e. increased feeling of closeness to others, empathy, and euphoria. The mechanism underlying these acute effects of MDMA on social behaviour is to date not known. In two placebo-controlled studies we investigated the roles of 2 serotonin receptors and oxytocin in these effects. It was concluded that MDMA enhances emotional empathy but these effects are not mediated by these 2 serotonin receptors or oxytocin. Limitations and directions of future research will be discussed.
Kim Kuypers has been studying the effects of MDMA on cognition for over 13 years now. The research grant she obtained in 2011 helped her to set up her own research line in which she chose to shift her focus from negative drug effects to positive effects of drugs and the underlying neurobiology.