And yet another study on the negative effects of Ecstasy. This time scientists investigated the relationship between beginning Ecstasy use and subsequent cognitive performance.
Before and after a period of a year, researchers tested the cognitive functioning of over hundred “Ecstasy-naive” subjects using all kinds of neuropsychological tests, measuring learning, memory and frontal executive functions. During this period, 43 subjects didn’t use any other illicit substance apart from cannabis. The cognitive functioning of this “nonuser group” was compared with that of 23 subjects who had used more than 10 Ecstasy pills that year.
Among Ecstasy users, the researchers only found a deterioration in a memory task called paired associates learning, in which people memorize pairs of words or objects so that the presentation of one triggers the recall of the other. None of the other cognitive tasks showed significant differences between users and nonusers of Ecstasy.
According to study leader Daniel Wagner, the found deficit suggests damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is crucial for memory formation and recall.
Dr. Stephen Ross, director of Addiction Psychiatry at New York University’s Tisch Hospital however, said to ABC news that the findings should be taken with a grain of salt, because the researchers didn’t use any brain imaging to confirm damage to the hippocampus.
Daniel Wagner, Benjamin Becker, Philip Koester, Euphrosyne Gouzoulis-Mayfrank, & Joerg Daumann (2012). A prospective study of learning, memory, and executive function in new MDMA users. Addiction DOI: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.03977.x