Remembering Molly: Immediate and delayed false memory formation after acute MDMA exposure

Lilian Kloft*, Henry Otgaar, Arjan Blokland, Stefan W. Toennes, Johannes G. Ramaekers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The entactogen 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is increasingly being recognized for its therapeutic potential but is also widespread in nightlife settings where it may co-occur with crime. Since previous research detected impaired verbal memory during acute MDMA intoxication, understanding the drug's ramifications in an applied legal context becomes crucial. We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to examine acute and delayed effects of MDMA (75 mg) on false memory in 60 healthy volunteers with a history of MDMA use, using three well-established false memory methods: a basic, associative word list (Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM)) paradigm and two applied misinformation tasks using a virtual reality crime. Memory was tested immediately (encoding and retrieval under drug influence) and 1 week later (retrieval when sober). Small MDMA-induced impairments of true memory in the word list task were detected at both time points. MDMA increased false memory for related but non-critical lures during the immediate test, and decreased false memory for critical lures after a delay. Episodic memory assessed in the misinformation tasks was not consistently affected. Findings indicate a complex memory profile but no heightened vulnerability to external suggestion in response to MDMA intoxication. Recommendations for future applied legal psychological research include adding measures of recall on top of recognition, using study designs that separate the different memory phases, and potentially testing higher doses. Further research on false memories and suggestibility using imagination procedures can also be relevant for the clinical context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Volume57
Early online date3 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

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