Home > Neural responses to reward anticipation and feedback in adult and adolescent cannabis users and controls.

Skumlien, Martine and Mokrysz, Claire and Freeman, Tom P and Wall, Matthew B and Bloomfield, Michael and Lees, Rachel and Borissova, Anna and Petrilli, Kat and Carson, James and Coughlan, Tiernan and Ofori, Shelan and Langley, Christelle and Sahakian, Barbara J and Curran, H Valerie and Lawn, Will (2022) Neural responses to reward anticipation and feedback in adult and adolescent cannabis users and controls. Neuropsychopharmacology, 47, (11), pp. 1976-1983. doi: 10.1038/s41386-022-01316-2.

External website: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41386-022-01316-2

Chronic use of drugs may alter the brain's reward system, though the extant literature concerning long-term cannabis use and neural correlates of reward processing has shown mixed results. Adolescents may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of cannabis than adults; however, this has not been investigated for reward processing. As part of the 'CannTeen' study, in the largest functional magnetic resonance imaging study of reward processing and cannabis use to date, we investigated reward anticipation and feedback in 125 adult (26-29 years) and adolescent (16-17 years) cannabis users (1-7 days/week cannabis use) and gender- and age-matched controls, using the Monetary Incentive Delay task. Blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses were examined using region of interest (ROI) analyses in the bilateral ventral striatum for reward anticipation and right ventral striatum and left ventromedial prefrontal cortex for feedback, and exploratory whole-brain analyses.

Results showed no User-Group or User-Group × Age-Group effects during reward anticipation or feedback in pre-defined ROIs. These null findings were supported by post hoc Bayesian analyses. However, in the whole-brain analysis, cannabis users had greater feedback activity in the prefrontal and inferior parietal cortex compared to controls. In conclusion, cannabis users and controls had similar neural responses during reward anticipation and in hypothesised reward-related regions during reward feedback. The whole-brain analysis revealed tentative evidence of greater fronto-parietal activity in cannabis users during feedback. Adolescents showed no increased vulnerability compared with adults. Overall, reward anticipation and feedback processing appear spared in adolescent and adult cannabis users, but future longitudinal studies are needed to corroborate this.

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