Drug interaction between inhibitors of monoamine oxidase (MAOIs) and selective serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) reuptake (SSRIs) induces serotonin syndrome, which is usually mild but occasionally severe in intensity. However, little is known about neural mechanisms responsible for the syndrome induction and intensification. In this study, we hypothesized that the syndrome induction and intensity utilize two different but inter-related mechanisms. Serotonin syndrome is elicited by excessive 5-HT in the brain (presynaptic mechanism), whereas syndrome intensity is attributed to neural circuits involving 5-HT2A and NMDA receptors (postsynaptic mechanism). To test this hypothesis, basal 5-HT efflux and postsynaptic circuits were pharmacologically altered in rats by once daily pretreatment of the MAOI clorgyline for 3, 6, or 13 days. Syndrome intensity was estimated by measuring 5-HT efflux, neuromuscular activity, and body-core temperature in response to challenge injection of clorgyline combined with the SSRI paroxetine. Results showed that the onset of serotonin syndrome is caused by 5-HT efflux exceeding 10-fold above baseline, confirming the presynaptic hypothesis. The neuromuscular and body-core temperature abnormalities, which were otherwise mild in drug-naive rats, were significantly intensified to a severe level in rats pretreated with daily clorgyline for 3 and 6 days but not in rats pretreated for 13 days. The intensified effect was blocked by M100907 and MK-801, suggesting that variation in syndrome intensity was mediated through a 5-HT2A and NMDA receptor-engaged circuit. Therefore, we concluded that pretreatments of MAOI pharmacologically alter the activity of postsynaptic circuits, which is responsible for changes in syndrome intensity.