A new study published by Johns Hopkins University concludes that the effect of just a single dose of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is enough to reopen a “critical period of development” in the brains of adult mice.
Critical periods are ‘windows’ during development when the brain is particularly sensitive to environmental stimuli. In the case of the study, the window was social interactions and the reward systems surrounding them that start around early sexual maturity and end in adulthood proper.
This critical period is characterized by increased oxytocin signaling in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, resulting in a larger appetite for social interactions. At the end of the period this desire abates, but one dose of MDMA was enough to reopen the social desire of youth in fully mature mice for about 2 weeks.