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Saccade and cognitive function in chronic kava users

Cairney, Sheree J., Clough, Alan R., Maruff, P., Collie, A., Currie, Bart J. and Currie, Jon (2003). Saccade and cognitive function in chronic kava users. Neuropsychopharmacology,28(2):389-396.

Document type: Journal Article
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Title Saccade and cognitive function in chronic kava users
Author Cairney, Sheree J.
Clough, Alan R.
Maruff, P.
Collie, A.
Currie, Bart J.
Currie, Jon
Journal Name Neuropsychopharmacology
Publication Date 2003
Volume Number 28
Issue Number 2
ISSN 1740-634X   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Start Page 389
End Page 396
Total Pages 8
Place of Publication New York, NY, USA
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Language English
Field of Research 320000 Medical and Health Sciences
Abstract Kava is an extract from the Piper methysticum Forst. f plant that has been consumed in the Pacific islands for millennia and more recently, among indigenous populations, in northern Australia and throughout the Western world as an herbal medicine. Through alterations on neuronal excitation, kava induces muscle relaxation, anasthesia, and has anxiolytic properties. There have been several isolated reports of psychotic syndromes, severe choreoathetosis and possible seizures following kava use. However, there is no conclusive evidence that kava interferes with normal cognitive processes. We tested a group of current, ex, and nonkava users among an indigenous population in northern Australia, using saccade and cognitive tests that have proven cross-cultural validity and are sensitive to subtle disruptions of the brain arising from substance abuse or neuropsychiatric illness. Despite collecting data from among the heaviest reported kava drinkers in the world, we found no impairment in cognitive or saccade function in individuals who were currently heavy kava users (and had been for up to 18 years), nor was there any impairment in individuals who had been heavy kava users in the past but had abstained for longer than 6 months. Current and ex-kava users showed a higher rate of kava dermopathy, lower body mass index, lowered blood lymphocytes and, in addition, current kava users showed elevated liver enzymes. While there has recently been increasing concern about potentially fatal liver damage attributed to kava use, we have found no evidence of brain dysfunction in heavy and long-term kava users.
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