Verbal learning and memory in cannabis and alcohol users: An event-related potential investigation

Janette L. Smith, Frances M. De Blasio, Jaimi M. Iredale, Allison J. Matthews, Raimondo Bruno, Michelle Dwyer, Tessa Batt, Allison M. Fox, Nadia Solowij, Richard P. Mattick

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Abstract

Aims: Long-term heavy use of cannabis and alcohol are known to be associated with memory impairments. In this study, we used event-related potentials to examine verbal learning and memory processing in a commonly used behavioral task. Method: We conducted two studies: first, a small pilot study of adolescent males, comprising 13 Drug-Naive Controls (DNC), 12 heavy drinkers (HD) and 8 cannabis users (CU). Second, a larger study of young adults, comprising 45 DNC (20 female), 39 HD (16 female), and 20 CU (9 female). In both studies, participants completed a modified verbal learning task (the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, RAVLT) while brain electrical activity was recorded. ERPs were calculated for words which were subsequently remembered vs. those which were not remembered, and for presentations of learnt words, previously seen words, and new words in a subsequent recognition test. Pre-planned principal components analyses (PCA) were used to quantify the ERP components in these recall and recognition phases separately for each study. Results: Memory performance overall was slightly lower than published norms using the standardized RAVLT delivery, but was generally similar and showed the expected changes over trials. Few differences in performance were observed between groups; a notable exception was markedly poorer delayed recall in HD relative to DNC (Study 2). PCA identified components expected from prior research using other memory tasks. At encoding, there were no between-group differences in the usual P2 recall effect (larger for recalled than not-recalled words). However, alcohol-related differences were observed in a larger P540 (indexing recollection) in HD than DNC, and cannabis-related differences were observed in a smaller N340 (indexing familiarity) and a lack of previously seen > new words effect for P540 in Study 2. Conclusions: This study is the first examination of ERPs in the RAVLT in healthy control participants, as well as substance-using individuals, and represents an important advance in methodology. The results indicate alterations in recognition memory processing, which even if not manifesting in overt behavioral impairment, underline the potential for brain dysfunction with early exposure to alcohol and cannabis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2129
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume8
Issue numberDEC
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2017

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Verbal Learning
Cannabis
Evoked Potentials
Drug and Narcotic Control
Alcohols
Principal Component Analysis
Brain
Young Adult
Healthy Volunteers
Recognition (Psychology)
Research

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Smith, J. L., De Blasio, F. M., Iredale, J. M., Matthews, A. J., Bruno, R., Dwyer, M., ... Mattick, R. P. (2017). Verbal learning and memory in cannabis and alcohol users: An event-related potential investigation. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(DEC), [2129]. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02129
Smith, Janette L. ; De Blasio, Frances M. ; Iredale, Jaimi M. ; Matthews, Allison J. ; Bruno, Raimondo ; Dwyer, Michelle ; Batt, Tessa ; Fox, Allison M. ; Solowij, Nadia ; Mattick, Richard P. / Verbal learning and memory in cannabis and alcohol users : An event-related potential investigation. In: Frontiers in Psychology. 2017 ; Vol. 8, No. DEC.
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abstract = "Aims: Long-term heavy use of cannabis and alcohol are known to be associated with memory impairments. In this study, we used event-related potentials to examine verbal learning and memory processing in a commonly used behavioral task. Method: We conducted two studies: first, a small pilot study of adolescent males, comprising 13 Drug-Naive Controls (DNC), 12 heavy drinkers (HD) and 8 cannabis users (CU). Second, a larger study of young adults, comprising 45 DNC (20 female), 39 HD (16 female), and 20 CU (9 female). In both studies, participants completed a modified verbal learning task (the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, RAVLT) while brain electrical activity was recorded. ERPs were calculated for words which were subsequently remembered vs. those which were not remembered, and for presentations of learnt words, previously seen words, and new words in a subsequent recognition test. Pre-planned principal components analyses (PCA) were used to quantify the ERP components in these recall and recognition phases separately for each study. Results: Memory performance overall was slightly lower than published norms using the standardized RAVLT delivery, but was generally similar and showed the expected changes over trials. Few differences in performance were observed between groups; a notable exception was markedly poorer delayed recall in HD relative to DNC (Study 2). PCA identified components expected from prior research using other memory tasks. At encoding, there were no between-group differences in the usual P2 recall effect (larger for recalled than not-recalled words). However, alcohol-related differences were observed in a larger P540 (indexing recollection) in HD than DNC, and cannabis-related differences were observed in a smaller N340 (indexing familiarity) and a lack of previously seen > new words effect for P540 in Study 2. Conclusions: This study is the first examination of ERPs in the RAVLT in healthy control participants, as well as substance-using individuals, and represents an important advance in methodology. The results indicate alterations in recognition memory processing, which even if not manifesting in overt behavioral impairment, underline the potential for brain dysfunction with early exposure to alcohol and cannabis.",
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Smith, JL, De Blasio, FM, Iredale, JM, Matthews, AJ, Bruno, R, Dwyer, M, Batt, T, Fox, AM, Solowij, N & Mattick, RP 2017, 'Verbal learning and memory in cannabis and alcohol users: An event-related potential investigation' Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 8, no. DEC, 2129. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02129

Verbal learning and memory in cannabis and alcohol users : An event-related potential investigation. / Smith, Janette L.; De Blasio, Frances M.; Iredale, Jaimi M.; Matthews, Allison J.; Bruno, Raimondo; Dwyer, Michelle; Batt, Tessa; Fox, Allison M.; Solowij, Nadia; Mattick, Richard P.

In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 8, No. DEC, 2129, 08.12.2017.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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T1 - Verbal learning and memory in cannabis and alcohol users

T2 - An event-related potential investigation

AU - Smith, Janette L.

AU - De Blasio, Frances M.

AU - Iredale, Jaimi M.

AU - Matthews, Allison J.

AU - Bruno, Raimondo

AU - Dwyer, Michelle

AU - Batt, Tessa

AU - Fox, Allison M.

AU - Solowij, Nadia

AU - Mattick, Richard P.

PY - 2017/12/8

Y1 - 2017/12/8

N2 - Aims: Long-term heavy use of cannabis and alcohol are known to be associated with memory impairments. In this study, we used event-related potentials to examine verbal learning and memory processing in a commonly used behavioral task. Method: We conducted two studies: first, a small pilot study of adolescent males, comprising 13 Drug-Naive Controls (DNC), 12 heavy drinkers (HD) and 8 cannabis users (CU). Second, a larger study of young adults, comprising 45 DNC (20 female), 39 HD (16 female), and 20 CU (9 female). In both studies, participants completed a modified verbal learning task (the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, RAVLT) while brain electrical activity was recorded. ERPs were calculated for words which were subsequently remembered vs. those which were not remembered, and for presentations of learnt words, previously seen words, and new words in a subsequent recognition test. Pre-planned principal components analyses (PCA) were used to quantify the ERP components in these recall and recognition phases separately for each study. Results: Memory performance overall was slightly lower than published norms using the standardized RAVLT delivery, but was generally similar and showed the expected changes over trials. Few differences in performance were observed between groups; a notable exception was markedly poorer delayed recall in HD relative to DNC (Study 2). PCA identified components expected from prior research using other memory tasks. At encoding, there were no between-group differences in the usual P2 recall effect (larger for recalled than not-recalled words). However, alcohol-related differences were observed in a larger P540 (indexing recollection) in HD than DNC, and cannabis-related differences were observed in a smaller N340 (indexing familiarity) and a lack of previously seen > new words effect for P540 in Study 2. Conclusions: This study is the first examination of ERPs in the RAVLT in healthy control participants, as well as substance-using individuals, and represents an important advance in methodology. The results indicate alterations in recognition memory processing, which even if not manifesting in overt behavioral impairment, underline the potential for brain dysfunction with early exposure to alcohol and cannabis.

AB - Aims: Long-term heavy use of cannabis and alcohol are known to be associated with memory impairments. In this study, we used event-related potentials to examine verbal learning and memory processing in a commonly used behavioral task. Method: We conducted two studies: first, a small pilot study of adolescent males, comprising 13 Drug-Naive Controls (DNC), 12 heavy drinkers (HD) and 8 cannabis users (CU). Second, a larger study of young adults, comprising 45 DNC (20 female), 39 HD (16 female), and 20 CU (9 female). In both studies, participants completed a modified verbal learning task (the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, RAVLT) while brain electrical activity was recorded. ERPs were calculated for words which were subsequently remembered vs. those which were not remembered, and for presentations of learnt words, previously seen words, and new words in a subsequent recognition test. Pre-planned principal components analyses (PCA) were used to quantify the ERP components in these recall and recognition phases separately for each study. Results: Memory performance overall was slightly lower than published norms using the standardized RAVLT delivery, but was generally similar and showed the expected changes over trials. Few differences in performance were observed between groups; a notable exception was markedly poorer delayed recall in HD relative to DNC (Study 2). PCA identified components expected from prior research using other memory tasks. At encoding, there were no between-group differences in the usual P2 recall effect (larger for recalled than not-recalled words). However, alcohol-related differences were observed in a larger P540 (indexing recollection) in HD than DNC, and cannabis-related differences were observed in a smaller N340 (indexing familiarity) and a lack of previously seen > new words effect for P540 in Study 2. Conclusions: This study is the first examination of ERPs in the RAVLT in healthy control participants, as well as substance-using individuals, and represents an important advance in methodology. The results indicate alterations in recognition memory processing, which even if not manifesting in overt behavioral impairment, underline the potential for brain dysfunction with early exposure to alcohol and cannabis.

KW - Alcohol

KW - Cannabis

KW - Familiarity

KW - Principal components analysis

KW - RAVLT

KW - Recollection

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DO - 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02129

M3 - Article

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JF - Frontiers in Psychology

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