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J Psychopharmacol. 1998;12(1):79-83.

Cognitive performance in recreational users of MDMA of 'ecstasy': evidence for memory deficits.

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Department of Psychology, University of East London, UK.


Cognitive task performance was assessed in three groups of young people: 10 regular users of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) who had taken 'ecstasy' 10 times or more; 10 novice MDMA users who had taken 'ecstasy' one to nine times; and 10 control subjects who had never taken MDMA. A computerized battery of cognitive tasks (Cognitive Drug Research system) was undertaken on a day when subjects were drug free. Performance on the response speed and vigilance measures (simple reaction time, choice reaction time, number vigilance), was similar across the three subgroups. However on immediate word recall and delayed word recall, both groups of MDMA users recalled significantly less words than controls. Animal research has shown that MDMA can lead to serotonergic neurodegeneration, particularly in the hippocampus and frontal cortex. Although the design of this study was far from ideal, these data are consistent with other findings of memory decrements in recreational MDMA users, possibly caused by serotonergic neurotoxicity.

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