Elevated impulsivity and impaired decision-making cognition in heavy users of MDMA ("Ecstasy").Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2007; 189(4):517-30P
In animal studies, the common club drug 3,4-methylendioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "Ecstasy") consistently caused a prolonged loss of presynaptic serotonergic neurons, and evidence suggests that MDMA consumption may also affect the human serotonergic system. Serotonin (5-HT) has been implicated in the regulation of impulsivity and such executive functions as decision-making cognition. In fact, MDMA users have shown elevated impulsivity in two studies, but little is known about decision making in drug-free MDMA consumers.
The aim of this study was to examine the cognitive neurotoxicity of MDMA with regard to behavioral impulsivity and decision-making cognition.
Nineteen male, abstinent, heavy MDMA users; 19 male, abstinent cannabis users; and 19 male, drug-naïve controls were examined with the Matching Familiar Figures Test (MFFT) as well as with a Go/No-Go Task (GNG) for impulsivity and with a Gambling Task (GT) for executive functioning.
MDMA users showed significantly elevated impulsivity in the MFFT Impulsivity score (I-score), but not in commission errors of the GNG, compared with controls. Cannabis users did not yield altered impulsivity compared with controls. In the GT, MDMA users performed significantly worse than cannabis consumers and controls, whereas cannabis users exhibited the same decision-making capacity as controls. In addition, the I-score as well as the decision-making performance was correlated with measures of MDMA intake. The I-score and the decision-making performance were also correlated.
These results suggest that heavy use of MDMA may elevate behavioral impulsivity and impair decision-making cognition possibly mediated by a selective impairment of the 5-HT system.