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J Psychopharmacol. 2006 May;20(3):385-8.

MDMA polydrug users show process-specific central executive impairments coupled with impaired social and emotional judgement processes.

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Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit, Division of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


In recent years working memory deficits have been reported in users of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, ecstasy). The current study aimed to assess the impact of MDMA use on three separate central executive processes (set shifting, inhibition and memory updating) and also on "prefrontal" mediated social and emotional judgement processes. Fifteen polydrug ecstasy users and 15 polydrug non-ecstasy user controls completed a general drug use questionnaire, the Brixton Spatial Anticipation task (set shifting), Backward Digit Span procedure (memory updating), Inhibition of Return (inhibition), an emotional intelligence scale, the Tromso Social Intelligence Scale and the Dysexecutive Questionnaire (DEX). Compared with MDMA-free polydrug controls, MDMA polydrug users showed impairments in set shifting and memory updating, and also in social and emotional judgement processes. The latter two deficits remained significant after controlling for other drug use. These data lend further support to the proposal that cognitive processes mediated by the prefrontal cortex may be impaired by recreational ecstasy use.

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