Ecstasy May Reduce Hippocampal Volume

Smaller hippocampal volume may account for the memory impairments seen in ecstasy users

THURSDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- Ecstasy (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) users have a reduced hippocampal volume, which may explain their memory deficits, according to a study published online March 28 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Bjørnar den Hollander, from the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues investigated the presence of hippocampal damage in 10 male ecstasy users (average age, 25.4 years) by comparing their hippocampal volume with those of seven healthy age- and gender-matched polydrug-using controls (average age, 21.3 years). The hippocampus was manually outlined in volumetric magnetic resonance imaging scans. The ecstasy users had used an average of 281 tablets over the past 6.5 years but were drug-free for an average of two months or more. Exposure to other drugs and alcohol was similar in the two groups.

The investigators found that, on average, the hippocampal volume was 10.5 percent smaller in ecstasy users than in controls. After adjusting for total brain volume, the proportion of overall gray-matter volume was 4.6 percent lower on average in the ecstasy users. There was no reduction in the proportion of white-matter volume.

"Chronic users of ecstasy may be prone to incurring hippocampal damage. Since the hippocampus plays an essential role in long-term memory, the present findings are of particular interest in view of the various studies showing that ecstasy users display significant memory impairments, whereas their performance on other cognitive tests is generally normal," the authors write.

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