Ecstasy Use Impairs Verbal Memory
> 6/6/2007 10:28:10 AM

The June issue of Archives of General Psychiatry contains a study that helps clarify the damage done to the brain by ecstasy. Dr. Thelma Schilt, from the Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam, compared two groups of youths who began the study as part of the same cohort with equivalent intelligence scores across the board. By patiently monitoring these youths for two years, Schilt was able to measure brain changes immediately after ecstasy use was reported. The study was thus able to measure the deleterious effect of even a small quantity of the drug (the average dose taken before evaluation was only 3.2 tablets).

Multiple types of memory were tested for both users and non-users, and somewhat surprisingly, verbal memory was the only function impaired by use. Youths who had taken the drug still performed just as well at recalling images and non-verbal data. This is a telling find because it suggests that ecstasy damages a very specific region of the brain, and that it does so even in the earliest statges of use and with small quanitites. Earlier studies have found that ecstasy leads to brain damage, and that this damage may be related to decreased dopamine levels, but this study points investigators towards the precise way that ecstasy interferes with normal brain function. Further research may illuminate other areas, or may serve to better clarify the link between ecstasy use and verbal memory function.

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