Differential effects of ecstasy on short-term and working memory: a meta-analysis

Neuropsychol Rev. 2010 Mar;20(1):21-32. doi: 10.1007/s11065-009-9124-z. Epub 2010 Feb 16.


Quantitative analysis of studies examining the effect of ecstasy on short-term and working memory in the verbal and visuo-spatial domain was undertaken. Thirty verbal short-term memory, 22 verbal working memory, 12 visuospatial short-term memory and 9 visuospatial working memory studies met inclusion criteria. Ecstasy users performed significantly worse in all memory domains, both in studies using drug-naïve controls and studies using polydrug controls. These results are consistent with previous meta-analytic findings that ecstasy use is associated with impaired short-term memory function. Lifetime ecstasy consumption predicted effect size in working memory but not in short-term memory. The current meta-analysis adds to the literature by showing that ecstasy use in humans is also associated with impaired working memory, and that this impairment is related to total lifetime ecstasy consumption. These findings highlight the long-term, cumulative behavioral consequences associated with ecstasy use in humans.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hallucinogens / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects*
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders


  • Hallucinogens
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine