Cannabis increases susceptibility to false memory

Lilian Kloft*, Henry Otgaar, Arjan Blokland, Lauren A Monds, Stefan W Toennes, Elizabeth F Loftus, Johannes G Ramaekers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

With the growing global acceptance of cannabis and its widespread use by eyewitnesses and suspects in legal cases, understanding the popular drug's ramifications for memory is a pressing need. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, we examined the acute and delayed effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) intoxication on susceptibility to false memory in 64 healthy volunteers. Memory was tested immediately (encoding and retrieval under drug influence) and 1 wk later (retrieval sober). We used three different methods (associative word lists and two misinformation tasks using virtual reality). Across all methods, we found evidence for enhanced false-memory effects in intoxicated participants. Specifically, intoxicated participants showed higher false recognition in the associative word-list task both at immediate and delayed test than controls. This yes bias became increasingly strong with decreasing levels of association between studied and test items. In a misinformation task, intoxicated participants were more susceptible to false-memory creation using a virtual-reality eyewitness scenario and virtual-reality perpetrator scenario. False-memory effects were mostly restricted to the acute-intoxication phase. Cannabis seems to increase false-memory proneness, with decreasing strength of association between an event and a test item, as assessed by different false-memory paradigms. Our findings have implications for how and when the police should interview suspects and eyewitnesses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4585-4589
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume117
Issue number9
Early online date10 Feb 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • cannabis
  • THC
  • false memory
  • misinformation
  • DRM
  • MALLEABILITY
  • PREVALENCE
  • MARIJUANA
  • DRUGS

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