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PLoS One. 2010 Nov 23;5(11):e14097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014097.

Evidence of neurotoxicity of ecstasy: sustained effects on electroencephalographic activity in polydrug users.

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  • 1Neurologisches Rehabilitationszentrum Leipzig, University of Leipzig, Bennewitz, Germany.



According to previous EEG reports of indicative disturbances in Alpha and Beta activities, a systematic search for distinct EEG abnormalities in a broader population of Ecstasy users may especially corroborate the presumed specific neurotoxicity of Ecstasy in humans.


105 poly-drug consumers with former Ecstasy use and 41 persons with comparable drug history without Ecstasy use, and 11 drug naives were investigated for EEG features. Conventional EEG derivations of 19 electrodes according to the 10-20-system were conducted. Besides standard EEG bands, quantitative EEG analyses of 1-Hz-subdivided power ranges of Alpha, Theta and Beta bands have been considered.


Ecstasy users with medium and high cumulative Ecstasy doses revealed an increase in Theta and lower Alpha activities, significant increases in Beta activities, and a reduction of background activity. Ecstasy users with low cumulative Ecstasy doses showed a significant Alpha activity at 11 Hz. Interestingly, the spectral power of low frequencies in medium and high Ecstasy users was already significantly increased in the early phase of EEG recording. Statistical analyses suggested the main effect of Ecstasy to EEG results.


Our data from a major sample of Ecstasy users support previous data revealing alterations of EEG frequency spectrum due rather to neurotoxic effects of Ecstasy on serotonergic systems in more detail. Accordingly, our data may be in line with the observation of attentional and memory impairments in Ecstasy users with moderate to high misuse. Despite the methodological problem of polydrug use also in our approach, our EEG results may be indicative of the neuropathophysiological background of the reported memory and attentional deficits in Ecstasy abusers. Overall, our findings may suggest the usefulness of EEG in diagnostic approaches in assessing neurotoxic sequela of this common drug abuse.

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