Animal studies have allowed for more detailed research of the effects of MDMA on the brain. Unfortunately, the brain of an animal is much different than the brain of a human, so the information found may not directly correspond to how MDMA affects the human brain. Nonetheless, there is a lot of value in the research findings.
Some findings from rat testing have shown that MDMA destroys certain cells (serotonin receptors) that are related to memory (Allen et al. 1993). This is known as neurotoxicity, though there is much debate over the interpretation of the evidence. Studies using pigeons have revealed that the amount of MDMA exposure directly affects the accuracy of recall memory and directly decreases the rate of response (time delay before a response) (Lesage et al. 1993). Rat studies suggest that MDMA may be damaging to the learning and memory of developing brains. The vulnerability period of the rats corresponds to the third trimester in humans (increased risk of MDMA during human late fetal period) (Broening et al. 2001).
There have been clinical studies and numerous surveys trying to find out if MDMA affects memory. The research seems to show that MDMA users have impairments to specific types of memory. In one study, MDMA users reported significantly more errors in memory having to do with remembering to do something in the future, including long-term and short-term. Experienced users scored the worst. In the same study, users showed impairments in verbal fluency (Heffernan et al. 2001). In another study, MDMA users were able to recall fewer words that non-users on a test which required a delayed recall but not on one that tested immediate recall. In both studies there was a strong association between impaired memory function in MDMA users and brain damage in the frontal lobe (Reneman et al. 2001).
Memory and learning
Impaired attention and concentration
Main Table of Contents