The Human Pharmacology and Clinical Neurosciences group of the IMIM-Hospital del Mar, lead by Rafael de la Torre, has published a paper in PLoS One this week to try to clarify the association between cumulative use of MDMA (ecstasy), one of the most popular illegal psychostimulants abused among youth, and cognitive dysfunction. They have also set to understand the potential role of candidate genetic polymorphisms in explaining individual differences in the cognitive effects of MDMA.
Several studies have suggested that MDMA induces neurotoxicity, which primarily affects the serotonin system and is linked to memory dysfunction. There is also evidence that several gene polymorphisms may contribute to explain variations in the cognitive impact of MDMA across regular users of this drug.
The research group took 60 ecstasy polydrug users, 110 cannabis users and 93 non-drug users and assessed them using several cognitive measures. Participants were also genotyped for polymorphisms within six genes. The scientists found that both MDMA lifetime use and gene-related individual differences influence cognitive dysfunction in ecstasy users.
According to the authors “this study reliably demonstrates dose-related effects of MDMA use on visual attention, organization and memory”.
Cuyàs E, Verdejo-García A, Fagundo AB, Khymenets O, Rodríguez J, Cuenca A, de Sola Llopis S, Langohr K, Peña-Casanova J, Torrens M, Martín-Santos R, Farré M, de la Torre R. The Influence of Genetic and Environmental Factors among MDMA Users in Cognitive Performance. PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27206 [PDF]