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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Feb;225(4):923-34. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2873-z. Epub 2012 Sep 23.

Memory-related hippocampal functioning in ecstasy and amphetamine users: a prospective fMRI study.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Cologne, Kerpener Strasse 62, 50924 Cologne, Germany.



Recreational use of ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine [MDMA]) has been associated with memory impairments. Functional neuroimaging studies with cross-sectional designs reported altered memory-related hippocampal functioning in ecstasy-polydrug users. However, differences might be pre-existing or related to the concomitant use of amphetamine.


To prospectively investigate the specific effects of ecstasy on memory-related hippocampal functioning.


We used an associative memory task and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 40 ecstasy and/or amphetamine users at baseline (t1) and after 12 months (t2). At t1, all subjects had very limited amphetamine and/or ecstasy experience (less than 5 units lifetime dose). Based on the reported drug use at t2, subjects with continued ecstasy and/or amphetamine use (nā€‰=ā€‰17) were compared to subjects who stopped use after t1 (nā€‰=ā€‰12).


Analysis of repeated measures revealed that encoding-related activity in the left parahippocampal gyrus changed differentially between the groups. Activity in this region increased in abstinent subjects from t1 to t2, however, decreased in subjects with continued use. Decreases within the left parahippocampal gyrus were associated with the use of ecstasy, but not amphetamine, during the follow-up period. However, there were no significant differences in memory performance.


The current findings suggest specific effects of ecstasy use on memory-related hippocampal functioning. However, alternative explanations such as (sub-)acute cannabis effects are conceivable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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