Differences in prefrontal blood oxygenation during an acute multitasking stressor in ecstasy polydrug users

C. A. Roberts, Mark Wetherell, John Fisk, Catherine Montgomery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background - Cognitive deficits are well documented in ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine; MDMA) users, with such deficits being taken as evidence of dysregulation of the serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) system. More recently neuroimaging has been used to corroborate these deficits. The present study aimed to assess multitasking performance in ecstasy polydrug users, polydrug users and drug-naive individuals. It was predicted that ecstasy polydrug users would perform worse than non-users on the behavioural measure and this would be supported by differences in cortical blood oxygenation. Method - In the study, 20 ecstasy-polydrug users, 17 polydrug users and 19 drug-naive individuals took part. On day 1, drug use history was taken and questionnaire measures were completed. On day 2, participants completed a 20-min multitasking stressor while brain blood oxygenation was measured using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Results - There were no significant differences between the three groups on the subscales of the multitasking stressor. In addition, there were no significant differences on self-report measures of perceived workload (NASA Task Load Index). In terms of mood, ecstasy users were significantly less calm and less relaxed compared with drug-naive controls. There were also significant differences at three voxels on the fNIRS, indicating decreased blood oxygenation in ecstasy users compared with drug-naive controls at voxel 2 (left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), voxel 14 and voxel 16 (right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), and compared with polydrug controls at V14. Conclusions - The results of the present study provide support for changes in brain activation during performance of demanding tasks in ecstasy polydrug users, which could be related to cerebral vasoconstriction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-406
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Differences in prefrontal blood oxygenation during an acute multitasking stressor in ecstasy polydrug users'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this