Memory-related hippocampal dysfunction in poly-drug ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) users
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3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) is neurotoxic in animal studies and its use has been associated with cognitive impairments in humans.
To study hippocampal activation during the retrieval from episodic memory in polyvalent users of ecstasy.
Twelve polyvalent ecstasy users and twelve matched controls were examined by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they retrieved face-profession associations from episodic memory.
Ecstasy users had a normal structural MRI scan without focal brain lesions or anatomical abnormalities. They exhibited equal retrieval accuracy during memory retrieval to that of the matched controls. Yet, their retrieval-related activity was lower and more spatially restricted in the left anterior hippocampus than that of the controls.
These results provide evidence for abnormal hippocampal functioning in MDMA users even at the presence of normal memory performance. This finding may be linked to MDMA-induced neurotoxicity and suggests that diminished hippocampal activation during memory retrieval might be a more sensitive or earlier index of MDMA-related neurotoxicity than neuropsychological performance.