, Volume 226, Issue 2, pp 307–319 | Cite as

Impulsivity, attention, memory, and decision-making among adolescent marijuana users

  • Donald M. Dougherty
  • Charles W. Mathias
  • Michael A. Dawes
  • R. Michael Furr
  • Nora E. Charles
  • Anthony Liguori
  • Erin E. Shannon
  • Ashley Acheson
Original Investigation



Marijuana is a popular drug of abuse among adolescents, and they may be uniquely vulnerable to resulting cognitive and behavioral impairments. Previous studies have found impairments among adolescent marijuana users. However, the majority of this research has examined measures individually rather than multiple domains in a single cohesive analysis. This study used a logistic regression model that combines performance on a range of tasks to identify which measures were most altered among adolescent marijuana users.


The purpose of this research was to determine unique associations between adolescent marijuana use and performances on multiple cognitive and behavioral domains (attention, memory, decision-making, and impulsivity) in 14- to 17-year-olds while simultaneously controlling for performances across the measures to determine which measures most strongly distinguish marijuana users from nonusers.


Marijuana-using adolescents (n = 45) and controls (n = 48) were tested. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to test for: (1) differences between marijuana users and nonusers on each measure, (2) associations between marijuana use and each measure after controlling for the other measures, and (3) the degree to which (1) and (2) together elucidated differences among marijuana users and nonusers.


Of all the cognitive and behavioral domains tested, impaired short-term recall memory and consequence sensitivity impulsivity were associated with marijuana use after controlling for performances across all measures.


This study extends previous findings by identifying cognitive and behavioral impairments most strongly associated with adolescent marijuana users. These specific deficits are potential targets of intervention for this at-risk population.


Marijuana Cannabis Adolescence Impulsivity Memory Attention 



We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Christy Duncan, P.A. in collection of data from which this manuscript was prepared. Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant R21-DA020993 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Additionally, Dr. Dougherty acknowledges support from the William and Marguerite Wurzbach Distinguished Professorship and The University of Texas Regent’s Scholar Award.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald M. Dougherty
    • 1
  • Charles W. Mathias
    • 1
  • Michael A. Dawes
    • 1
  • R. Michael Furr
    • 2
  • Nora E. Charles
    • 1
  • Anthony Liguori
    • 3
  • Erin E. Shannon
    • 3
  • Ashley Acheson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryThe University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA
  3. 3.Department of Physiology and PharmacologyWake Forest School of MedicineWinston-SalemUSA

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