Functional MRI of inhibitory processing in abstinent adolescent marijuana users

Abstract

Background

Marijuana intoxication appears to impair response inhibition, but it is unclear if impaired inhibition and associated brain abnormalities persist after prolonged abstinence among adolescent users. We hypothesized that brain activation during a go/no-go task would show persistent abnormalities in adolescent marijuana users after 28 days of abstinence.

Methods

Adolescents with (n = 16) and without (n = 17) histories of marijuana use were compared on blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response to a go/no-go task during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) after 28 days of monitored abstinence. Participants had no neurological problems or Axis I diagnoses other than cannabis abuse/dependence.

Results

Marijuana users did not differ from non-users on task performance but showed more BOLD response than non-users during inhibition trials in right dorsolateral prefrontal, bilateral medial frontal, bilateral inferior and superior parietal lobules, and right occipital gyri, as well as during “go” trials in right prefrontal, insular, and parietal cortices (p < 0.05, clusters > 943 μl). Differences remained significant even after controlling for lifetime and recent alcohol use.

Conclusions

Adolescent marijuana users relative to non-users showed increased brain processing effort during an inhibition task in the presence of similar task performance, even after 28 days of abstinence. Thus, increased brain processing effort to achieve inhibition may predate the onset of regular use or result from it. Future investigations will need to determine whether increased brain processing effort is associated with risk to use.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse grants R21 DA015228-03 and R01 DA021182-01 to S. F. Tapert, and R37 AA07033-19 to S. A. Brown. Appreciation is expressed to the following people for their assistance with this project: Valerie Barlett, Christina Burke, Lisa Caldwell, Mairav Cohen-Zion, Lawrence Frank, Krista Lisdahl Medina, Tim McQueeny, MJ Meloy, Bonnie Nagel, Ann Park, Claudia Padula, Brian Schweinsburg, Rebecca Theilmann, and Jennifer Winward. We would also like to acknowledge the support and advice of Dr. Robert Fitzgerald and the VA Laboratory Service.

Portions of this research were presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, June 18-23 2005, Orlando, FL, USA.

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Correspondence to Susan F. Tapert.

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Tapert, S.F., Schweinsburg, A.D., Drummond, S.P.A. et al. Functional MRI of inhibitory processing in abstinent adolescent marijuana users. Psychopharmacology 194, 173–183 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-007-0823-y

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Keywords

  • Marijuana
  • Cannabis
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Adolescence
  • Response inhibition
  • Abstinence