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J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2010 Apr;32(4):337-49. doi: 10.1080/13803390903042361.

Neurocognitive impairments in MDMA and other drug users: MDMA alone may not be a cognitive risk factor.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA.



MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine; "Ecstasy") is an amphetamine derivative with mild hallucinogenic and stimulant qualities. MDMA leads to serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) neurotoxicity and has been linked to cognitive impairments. It remains unclear whether these impairments are due to MDMA versus other drug use.


Neurocognitive functioning was measured in a sample of abstinent polydrug users (n = 52) with a range of MDMA use and healthy nondrug controls (n = 29). Participants completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery and self-report measures of drug use.


Polydrug users performed worse than controls on spatial span and spatial working memory (ps < .05). Among polydrug users, lifetime marijuana use significantly predicted verbal learning and memory performance (p < .01), while MDMA use was not predictive of cognitive impairment.


This study and our previous report (Hanson, Luciana, & Sullwold, 2008) suggest that moderate MDMA use does not lead to persistent impairments above and beyond that associated with generally heavy drug use, but polydrug use may lead to dose-related temporal and frontoparietal dysfunction. Marijuana use may be particularly problematic. Cause-effect relations are unclear.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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