Cocaine enhances prospective memory performance

Cocaine enhances prospective memory performance, while cannabis tends to impair prospective memory, according to new research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

“Prospective memory is memory about the future and is an important aspect in daily living; for instance remembering that you have a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. Since cocaine is still being misused as a cognition enhancer, we wanted to examine the acute effects of cocaine on prospective memory,” said study author Nadia R. P. W. Hutten of Maastricht University

“In addition, we were interested to see whether cocaine directly affects prospective memory or whether the effects were due to a more general effect on cognition for instance enhanced attention and arousal.”

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 15 regular drug users found that 300 mg of cocaine enhanced performance on a prospective memory test. Cannabis, on the other hand, diminished performance.

Cocaine also improved performance on a divided attention task, in which participants were required to attend to two tasks simultaneously. But there was only a weak association between prospective memory performance and divided attention performance.

“Cocaine did enhance attention and prospective memory. The enhancing effects on prospective memory were not completely due to enhanced effects on attention and therefore it is likely to represent a direct effect on prospective memory,” Hutten explained to PsyPost.

“This study only included one memory and attention task, while there are multiple attention networks in the brain and different memory systems, it is recommended to include a diverse set of attention and memory tasks to cover a broad range of effects. Furthermore, we do not know which particular process of memory; encoding, retrieval and/or storage is enhanced by cocaine.”

“Even though cocaine improves prospective memory and attention; it does not imply that cocaine should be used as a cognition enhancer as cocaine has a high addiction potential,” Hutten added.

The study, “A single dose of cocaine enhances prospective memory performance“, was authored by Nadia R.P.W. Hutten, Kim P.C. Kuypers, Janelle H.P. van Wel, Eef L. Theunissen, Stefan W. Toennes, Robbert-Jan Verkes, and Johannes G, Ramaekers.