, Volume 118, Issue 3, pp 295-304

Comparative behavioural and neurochemical studies with a psychomotor stimulant, an hallucinogen and 3,4-methylenedioxy analogues of amphetamine

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Abstract

Spontaneous behaviours were assessed in freely moving rats after treatment with equimolar doses of drugs that share a basic amphetamine structure. The drugs used included a psychomotor stimulant [(+)-amphetamine (AMPH)], an hallucinogen [para-methoxyamphetamine (PMA)] and the entactogens 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) and 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-ethylamphetamine (MDE). A detailed analysis of the frequency and duration of 30 different behaviours and the temporal organization of the behaviours was conducted in addition to measuring motor activity with an automated device. Levels of the biogenic amines and their acid metabolites in discrete brain regions and brain drug levels were also obtained. The automated motor activity measures discriminated among entactogens, the stimulant and the hallucinogen, but failed to distinguish between the hallucinogen and vehicle. Principal components analysis and cluster analysis of the frequencies and durations of the behaviours did not improve the classification of the drugs over the automated motor activity measures. Only the cluster analysis of the transitions between individual behaviours succeeded in differentiating the drug classes from each other and from vehicle treatment. All the behavioural measures classified one entactogen (MDE) as an hallucinogen. Cortical 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) measures grouped MDE with the other entactogens but did not distinguish AMPH from vehicle. However, striatal dopamine measures differentiated AMPH from vehicle treatment. Variations in the durations of behavioural effects across drugs were associated with large differences in drug levels 3 h after injection. Although the neurochemical data provided a classification system that most closely parallels human subjective effects of these drugs, both the neurochemical and the behavioural measures supported the existence of an entactogen class distinct from a psychomotor stimulant and an hallucinogen.