The 'party drug' Ecstasy does affect the memory of people who take it, especially in high-pressure situations, according to a new study by an ANU Clinical Psychology PhD student.
Mr John Brown, from the School of Psychology at ANU, will present the findings of his four-year study at the Australian Psychological Society conference in Sydney.
The study is the first in Australia to examine the effects of Ecstasy on memory using advanced cognitive psychology research techniques. While there is a growing body of evidence regarding the neurotoxic effects of Ecstasy, commonly used memory tests have often failed to reveal reliable memory deficits in Ecstasy users.
The research compared the average memory performance of three groups of about 30 participants: Ecstasy users who had not used any drug for two weeks; drug users who do not use Ecstasy (mainly marijuana users); and those who do not use illicit drugs.
“Using standard clinical neuropsychological tests, we identified small deficits in the average memory performance of Ecstasy users compared to both of the other groups,” Mr Brown says.
“However, a new test developed as part of this research project revealed relatively large memory deficits that appeared to be due to problems processing information at the time it is being stored, rather than failures in holding information in memory or to retrieving it later on.”
A set of 10 triplets of unrelated words (for example: Dingo - Spanner – Muffin) were quickly read aloud to the participants with only about one second between each triplet. The participants then had to recall as many of the triplets as they could.