The impact of recreational MDMA 'ecstasy' use on global form processing

C. White, M.S. Edwards, J.P. Brown, Jason Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


© The Author(s) 2014. The ability to integrate local orientation information into a global form percept was investigated in long-term ecstasy users. Evidence suggests that ecstasy disrupts the serotonin system, with the visual areas of the brain being particularly susceptible. Previous research has found altered orientation processing in the primary visual area (V1) of users, thought to be due to disrupted serotonin-mediated lateral inhibition. The current study aimed to investigate whether orientation deficits extend to higher visual areas involved in global form processing. Forty-five participants completed a psychophysical (Glass pattern) study allowing an investigation into the mechanisms underlying global form processing and sensitivity to changes in the offset of the stimuli (jitter). A subgroup of polydrug-ecstasy users (n=6) with high ecstasy use had significantly higher thresholds for the detection of Glass patterns than controls (n=21, p=0.039) after Bonferroni correction. There was also a significant interaction between jitter level and drug-group, with polydrug-ecstasy users showing reduced sensitivity to alterations in jitter level (p=0.003). These results extend previous research, suggesting disrupted global form processing and reduced sensitivity to orientation jitter with ecstasy use. Further research is needed to investigate this finding in a larger sample of heavy ecstasy users and to differentiate the effects of other drugs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018-1029
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number11
Early online date20 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


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