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Verbal Learning and Memory in Cannabis and Alcohol Users: An Event-Related Potential Investigation


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Smith, JL, De Blasio, FM, Iredale, JM, Matthews, AJ ORCID: 0000-0003-2961-9125, Bruno, RB ORCID: 0000-0001-6673-833X, Dwyer, M, Batt, T, Fox, AM, Solowij, N and Mattick, RP 2017 , 'Verbal Learning and Memory in Cannabis and Alcohol Users: An Event-Related Potential Investigation' , Frontiers in psychology, vol. 8, no. Dec , pp. 1-18 , doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02129.

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Aims: Long-term heavy use of cannabis and alcohol are known to be associated withmemory impairments. In this study, we used event-related potentials to examine verballearning 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 (16female), and 20 CU (9 female). In both studies, participants completed a modified verballearning task (the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, RAVLT) while brain electrical activitywas recorded. ERPs were calculated for words which were subsequently rememberedvs. those which were not remembered, and for presentations of learnt words, previouslyseen words, and new words in a subsequent recognition test. Pre-planned principalcomponents analyses (PCA) were used to quantify the ERP components in these recalland recognition phases separately for each study.Results: Memory performance overall was slightly lower than published norms usingthe standardized RAVLT delivery, but was generally similar and showed the expectedchanges over trials. Few differences in performance were observed between groups; anotable exception was markedly poorer delayed recall in HD relative to DNC (Study 2).PCA identified components expected from prior research using other memory tasks. Atencoding, there were no between-group differences in the usual P2 recall effect (larger forrecalled than not-recalled words). However, alcohol-related differences were observed ina larger P540 (indexing recollection) in HD than DNC, and cannabis-related differenceswere observed in a smaller N340 (indexing familiarity) and a lack of previously seen > newwords effect for P540 in Study 2.Conclusions: This study is the first examination of ERPs in the RAVLT in healthycontrol participants, as well as substance-using individuals, and represents an importantadvance in methodology. The results indicate alterations in recognition memoryprocessing, which even if not manifesting in overt behavioral impairment, underline thepotential for brain dysfunction with early exposure to alcohol and cannabis.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Smith, JL and De Blasio, FM and Iredale, JM and Matthews, AJ and Bruno, RB and Dwyer, M and Batt, T and Fox, AM and Solowij, N and Mattick, RP
Keywords: RAVLT, principal components analysis, recollection, familiarity, alcohol, cannabis
Journal or Publication Title: Frontiers in psychology
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN: 1664-1078
DOI / ID Number: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02129
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2017 The AuthorsLicensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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