The effect of catecholamine depletion by alpha-methyl-para-tyrosine on measures of cognitive performance and sleep in abstinent MDMA users

Una D. McCann, Stephen C. Peterson, George A. Ricaurte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

(±) 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a popular recreational drug of abuse and a brain serotonin (5-HT) neurotoxin in animals. Growing evidence suggests that humans who use MDMA recreationally can also develop 5-HT neurotoxic injury, although functional consequences have been difficult to identify. Twenty-five abstinent MDMA users and 23 non-MDMA using controls were studied to determine whether pharmacologic depletion of brain catecholamines by alpha-methyl-para-tyrosine (AMPT) would differentially effect MDMA users on measures of cognition and sleep, two processes dually modulated by brain serotonergic and catecholaminergic neurons. During a 5-day in-patient study, all subjects underwent formal neuropsychiatric testing, repeated computerized cognitive testing, and all-night sleep studies. At baseline, MDMA users had performance deficits on tasks of verbal and visuospatial working memory and displayed increased behavioral impulsivity on several computerized tasks, reflecting a tendency to perform quickly at the expense of accuracy. Baseline sleep architecture was also altered in abstinent MDMA users compared to controls. AMPT produced differential effects in MDMA users compared to controls on several cognitive and sleep measures. Differences in cognitive performance, impulsivity, and sleep were significantly correlated with MDMA use. These data extend findings from earlier studies demonstrating cognitive deficits, behavioral impulsivity, and sleep alterations in abstinent MDMA users, and suggest that lasting effects of MDMA lead to alterations in the ability to modulate behaviors reciprocally influenced by 5-HT and catecholamines. More research is needed to determine potential relationships between sleep abnormalities, cognitive deficits and impulsive behavior in abstinent MDMA users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1695-1706
Number of pages12
JournalNeuropsychopharmacology
Volume32
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2007

Keywords

  • Cognitive function
  • Dopamine
  • MDMA
  • Serotonin
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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