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Home > Grey matter volume differences associated with extremely low levels of cannabis use in adolescence.

Orr, Catherine and Spechler, Philip and Cao, Zhipeng and Albaugh, Matthew and Chaarani, Bader and Mackey, Scott and D'Souza, Deepak and Allgaier, Nicholas and Banaschewski, Tobias and Bokde, Arun L W and Bromberg, Uli and Büchel, Christian and Burke Quinlan, Erin and Conrod, Patricia and Desrivières, Sylvane and Flor, Herta and Frouin, Vincent and Gowland, Penny and Heinz, Andreas and Ittermann, Bernd and Martinot, Jean-Luc and Paillère Martinot, Marie-Laure and Nees, Frauke and Papadopoulos Orfanos, Dimitri and Paus, Tomáš and Poustka, Luise and Millenet, Sabina and Fröhner, Juliane H and Radhakrishnan, Rajiv and Smolka, Michael N and Walter, Henrik and Whelan, Robert and Schumann, Gunter and Potter, Alexandra and Garavan, Hugh (2019) Grey matter volume differences associated with extremely low levels of cannabis use in adolescence. The Journal of Neuroscience, 3375-17, . DOI:

Rates of cannabis use among adolescents are high, and are increasing concurrent with changes in the legal status of marijuana and societal attitudes regarding its use. Recreational cannabis use is understudied, especially in the adolescent period when neural maturation may make users particularly vulnerable to the effects of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on brain structure. In the current study, we used voxel-based morphometry to compare grey matter volume (GMV) in 46 fourteen year old human adolescents (males and females) with just one or two instances of cannabis use and carefully matched THC-naïve controls. We identified extensive regions in the bilateral medial temporal lobes as well as the bilateral posterior cingulate, lingual gyri, and cerebellum that showed greater GMV in the cannabis users.

Analysis of longitudinal data confirmed that GMV differences were unlikely to precede cannabis use. GMV in the temporal regions was associated with contemporaneous performance on the Perceptual Reasoning Index and with future generalized anxiety symptoms in the cannabis users. The distribution of GMV effects mapped onto biomarkers of the endogenous cannabinoid system providing insight into possible mechanisms for these effects.Almost 35% of American 10 graders have reported using cannabis and existing research suggests that initiation of cannabis use in adolescence is associated with long-term neurocognitive effects. We understand very little about the earliest effects of cannabis use, however, as most research is conducted in adults with a heavy pattern of lifetime use. This study presents evidence suggesting structural brain and cognitive effects of just one or two instances of cannabis use in adolescence. Converging evidence suggests a role for the endocannabinoid system in these effects. This research is particularly timely as the legal status of cannabis is changing in many jurisdictions and the perceived risk by youth associated with smoking cannabis has declined in recent years.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Article
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
14 January 2019
Identification #
Society for Neuroscience
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