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Ecstasy ingredient may promote cooperation

Drug is being assessed for potential to treat post-traumatic stress disorder

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Figure 2. Radar graph displaying scores on the 11 dimensions of the Altered States of Consciousness questionnaire. Each line in the radar represents 10% of the total possible score, inner... view more 

Credit: Gabay et al., JNeurosci (2018)

The recreational drug known as ecstasy or molly may help people regain trust in others after being betrayed, suggests results of a controlled laboratory study, published in JNeurosci, of healthy men given a pure form of the substance. The drug is currently being assessed for its potential as a supplemental treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Anthony Gabay and colleagues conducted a neuroimaging study of 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), a drug known to affect interpersonal interactions. The researchers specifically explored MDMA's influence on social decision-making and the underlying brain activity.

Male participants were randomly assigned to receive MDMA or a placebo and then played a game in which the participant and a second player could either work together or against each other. Those in the MDMA group were more likely to choose to cooperate with an opponent who had betrayed them but otherwise proved to be trustworthy. This behavioral shift was not observed during interactions with untrustworthy opponents, indicating the effect of MDMA is sensitive to the other player's behavior. Finally, the researchers report altered activity in brain regions involved in the processing of social information.

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Article: MDMA increases cooperation and recruitment of social brain areas when playing trustworthy players in an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1276-18.2018

Corresponding author: Anthony Gabay (King's College London, UK), anthony.a.gabay@kcl.ac.uk">anthony.a.gabay@kcl.ac.uk

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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