MDMA intoxication and verbal memory performance: a placebo-controlled pharmaco-MRI study

K.P.C. Kuypers*, M. Wingen, A. Heinecke, E. Formisano, J.G. Ramaekers

*Corresponding author for this work

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The aim of the present study was to identify the neural substrate underlying memory impairment due to a single dose of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) by means of pharmaco-MRI. Based on previous behavioral results it was hypothesized that this deficit could be attributed to a specific influence of MDMA on encoding. Fourteen Ecstasy users participated in this double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject study with two treatment conditions: MDMA (75 mg) and placebo. Memory performance was tested by means of a word learning task including two words lists, one addressing reading processes (control task, CWL) and a second (experimental task, EWL) addressing encoding and reading processes. Behavioral data showed that under the influence of MDMA, EWL performance was worse than placebo. Imaging data showed that Encoding was situated mainly in (pre)frontal, temporal and parietal areas. MDMA by Encoding interaction was situated in three areas: the left middle frontal gyrus (BA10), the right fusiform gyrus (BA19), and the left cuneus (BA18). Behavioral and functional data only correlated in BA10. It appeared that EWL performance caused BOLD signal change in BA10 during placebo treatment but not during MDMA intoxication. It is concluded that MDMA influences middle frontal gyrus processes resulting in impoverished memory encoding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1053-1061
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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