Information processing speed in ecstasy (MDMA) users

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • Liverpool John Moores University


Previous research draws parallels between ecstasy-related and age-related deficits in cognitive functioning. Age-related impairments in working memory have been attributed to a slow down in information processing speed. The present study compared 29 current ecstasy users, 10 previous users and 46 non-users on two tests measuring information processing speed and a computation span task measuring working memory. Results showed that ecstasy users performed worse than non-ecstasy users in the letter comparison task although the overall difference was not significant (p=0.089). Results from the pattern recognition task showed that current ecstasy users produced significantly more errors than the other two groups (p<0.01). When results were combined for both the letter and pattern tasks, once again current ecstasy users produced significantly more errors than non-ecstasy users (p<0.01). Working memory deficits obtained were statistically significant with both ecstasy using groups performing significantly worse than non-users on the computation span measure (p<0.01). Moreover, ANCOVA with measures of processing speed as covariates failed to eliminate the group difference in computation span (p<0.01). Therefore, it is likely the mechanism responsible for impairments in the computation span measure is not the same as that in elderly adults where processing speed generally removes most of the age-related variance. Also of relevance is the fact that the ecstasy users reported here had used a range of other drugs making it difficult to unambiguously attribute the results obtained to ecstasy use.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-8
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


  • Adult, Amphetamine/administration & dosage, Cannabis/chemistry, Cocaine/administration & dosage, Ethanol/administration & dosage, Humans, Memory/drug effects, Mental Processes/drug effects, Multivariate Analysis, N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine/administration & dosage, Pattern Recognition, Visual/drug effects, Psychomotor Performance/drug effects, Reproducibility of Results, Self Administration, Substance-Related Disorders/physiopathology, Surveys and Questionnaires, Time Factors