Twelve regular users of marijuana underwent two positron emission tomography (PET) scans using [18F] Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), one while subject to the effects of 17 mg THC, the other without THC. In both sessions, a virtual reality maze task was performed during the FDG uptake period.
When subject to the effects of 17 mg THC, regular marijuana smokers hit the walls more often on the virtual maze task than without THC. Compared to results without THC, 17 mg THC increased brain metabolism during task performance in areas that are associated with motor coordination and attention in the middle and medial frontal cortices and anterior cingulate, and reduced metabolism in areas that are related to visual integration of motion in the occipital lobes.
These findings suggest that in regular marijuana users, the immediate effects of marijuana may impact on cognitive–motor skills and brain mechanisms that modulate coordinated movement and driving.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
APA (1994) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edn. American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC
Bechara A, Damasio AR, Damasio H, Anderson SW (1994) Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex. Cognition 50:7–15
Bechara A, Tranel D, Damasio H, Damasio AR (1996) Failure to respond anatomically to anticipated future outcomes following damage to prefrontal cortex. Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex. Cerebral Cortex 6:215–225
Block RI, Ghoneim MM (1993) Effects of chronic marijuana use on human cognition. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 110:219–228
Block RI, O’Leary DS, Hichwa RD, Augustinack JC, Ponto LL, Ghoneim MM, Arndt S, Ehrhardt JC, Hurtig RR, Watkins GL, Hall JA, Nathan PE, Andreasen NC (2000) Cerebellar hypoactivity in frequent marijuana users. Neuroreport 11(4):749–753
Bolla KI, Brown K, Eldreth D, Tate K, Cadet JL (2002) Dose-related neurocognitive effects of marijuana use. Neurology 59:1337–1343
Bonne O, Louzoun Y, Aharon I, Krausz Y, Karger H, Lerer B, Bocher M, Freedman N, Chisin R (2003) Cerebral blood flow in depressed patients: a methodological comparison of statistical parametric mapping and region of interest analyses. Psych Res: Neuroimaging 122:49–57
Brett M, Anton J-L, Valabregue R, Poline J-B (2002). Region of interest analysis using an SPM toolbox. Abstract presented at the 8th International Conference on Functional Mapping of the Human Brain, June 2-6, 2002, Sendai, Japan. Available on CD-ROM in NeuroImage, Vol 16, No 2.
Brickner O, Weinstein AM, Lerman H,Greemland M, Meshulam R, Bloch M, Even-Sapir E (2005) Brain imaging study of orientation, coordination and executive function in recreational users of marijuana. Poster presented at the College of Drug Dependence Meeting, Orlando Florida, June 2005 abstract book pp 18.
Bush G, Luu P, Posner MI (2000) Cognitive and emotional influences in anterior cingulate cortex. Trends Cog Sci 4:215–222
Chipman ML, Macdonald S, Mann RE (2003) Being “at fault” in traffic crashes: does alcohol, cannabis, polydrug abuse make a difference? Inj Prev 9(4):343–348
Curran HV, Brignell C, Fletcher S, Middleton P, Henry J (2002) Cognitive and subjective effects of acure oral Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in infrequent cannabis users. Psychopharmacology 164:61–70
Egashira N, Mishima K, Iwasaki K, Fujiwara M (2002) Intracerebral microinjections of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol: search for the impairment of spatial memory in the eight-arm radial maze in rats. Brain Res 952:239–245
Erdler M, Windischberger C, Lanzenberger R, Edward V, Gartus A, Deecke L, Beisteiner R (2001) Dissociation of supplementary motor area and primary motor cortex in human subjects when comparing index and little finger movements with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Neurosci Lett 313(1–2):5–8
Fletcher JM, Page JB, Francis DJ, Copeland K, Naus MJ, Davis CM, Morris R, Krauskopf D, Satz P (1996) Cognitive correlates of long-term cannabis use in Costa Rican men. Arch Gen Psychiatry 53:1051–1057
Fox PT, Fox JM, Raichle ME, Burder RM (1985) The role of cerebral cortex in the generation of voluntary saccades: A positron emission tomographic study. J of Neurophysiol 54:348–369
Gaoni Y, Mechoulam R (1964) The isolation and structure of cannabinolic cannabidiolic and cannabigerolic acids. J Am Chem Soc 86:1646–1647
Ghatan PH, Hsieh JC, Wirsen-Meurling A, Wredling R, Eriksson L, Stone-Elander S, Levander S, Ingvar M (1995) Brain activation induced by the perceptual maze test: a PET study of cognitive performance. Neuroimage 2:112–124
Ghatan PH, Ingvar M, Eriksson L, Stone-Elander S, Serrander M, Ekberg K, Wahren J (1998) Cerebral effects of nicotine during cognition in smokers and non-smokers. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 136:179–189
Grant S, Contoreggi C, London ED (2000) Drug abusers show impaired performance in a laboratory test of decision making. Neuropsychologia 38:1180–1187
Grant I, Gonzalez R, Carey CI, Natarajan L, Wolfson T (2003) Non-acute (residual) neurocognitive effects of cannabis use: a meta-analytic study. J of the International Neurophysiological Society 9:679–689
Hart CL, van Gorp W, Haney M, Foltin RW, Fischman MW (2001) Effects of Acute Smoked Marijuana on Complex Cognitive Performance. Neuropsychopharmacology 25:757–765
Herning RI, Better WE, Tate K, Cadet JL (2005) Cerebrovascular perfusion in marijuana users during a month of monitored abstinence. Neurology 64:488–493
Huestis M (1999) Pharmacokinetics of THC in inhaled and oral preparations. In: Nahas GG, Sutin KM, Harvey DJ, Agurell S (eds) Marijuana and Medicine, Humana, Totawa NJ, pp 105–116
Jager G, Kahn RS, Van Den Brink W, Van Ree JM, Ramsey NF (2006) Long-term effects of frequent cannabis use on working memory and attention: an fMRI study. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 185(3):358–368
Kalant H (2004) Adverse effects of cannabis on health: an update of the literature since 1996. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 28:849–863
Kanayama G, Rogowska J, Pope HG, Gruber S, Yurgelun-Todd D (2004) Spatial working memory in heavy cannabis users: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Psychopharmacology 176:239–247
Lane SD, Cherek DR, Tcheremissine OV, Lieving LM, Pietras C (2005) Acute marijuana effects on human risk taking. Neuropsychopharmacology 30:800–809
Levin ED, Simon BB (1998) Nicotinic acetylcholinergic involvement in cognitive function in animals. Psychopharmacology 138:217–230
Liguori A, Gatto CP, Jarrett DB (2002) Separate and combined effects of marijuana and alcohol on equilibrium and simulated driving. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 163(3–4):399–405
Lundqvist T (2005) Cognitive consequences of cannabis use: comparison with abuse of stimulants and heroin with regard to attention, memory and executive functions. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 81(2):319–330
Mathew RJ, Wilson WH, Turkington TG, Coleman RE (1998) Cerebellar activity and disturbed time sense after THC. Brain Res 797(2):183–189
Mishima K, Egashira N, Matsumoto Y, Iwasaki K, Fujiwara M (2002) Involvement of reduced acetylcholine release in Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol-induced impairment of spatial memory in the 8-arm radial maze. Life Sci 72(4–5):397–407
O’Leary DS, Block RI, Flaum M, Schultz SK, Boles Ponto LL, Watkins GL, Hurtig RR, Andreasen NC, Hichwa RD (2000) Acute marijuana effects on rCBF and cognition: a PET study. Neuroreport 11(17):3835–3841
O’Leary DS, Block RI, Koeppel JA, Flaum M, Schultz SK, Andreasen NC, Ponto LB, Watkins GL, Hurtig RR, Hichwa RD (2002). Effects of smoking marijuana on brain perfusion and cognition. Neuropsychopharmacology 26(6), 802–816
O’Leary DS, Block RI, Koeppel JA, Schultz SK, Magnotta VA, Ponto LB, Watkins GL, Hichwa RD (2007) Effects of smoking marijuana on focal attention and brain blood flow. Hum Psychopharmacol Clin Exp 22(3):135–148
Pardo JV, Pardo PJ, Janer KW, Raichle ME (1990) The anterior cingulate cortex mediates processing selection in the Stroop attentional conflict paradigm. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 87:256–259
Perez-Reyes M, Guiseppi DS, Davis KH, Schindler HV, Cook, CE (1982) Comparison of effects of marijuana cigarettes of three different potencies. Clin Pharmacol Ther 31(5):617–624
Pillay SS, Rogowska J, Kanayama G, Jon D-I, Gruber S, Simpson N, Cherayil M, Pope HG, Yurgelun-Todd D (2004) Neurophysiology of motor function following cannabis discontinuation in chronic cannabis smokers: an fMRI study. Drug Alc Dep 76:261–271
Pope HG Jr, Yurgelun-Todd DA (1996) The residual cognitive effects of heavy marijuana use in college students. JAMA 275:521–527
Pope HG Jr, Gruber AJ, Hudson JI, Huestis MA, Yurgelun-Todd DA (2001) Neuropsychological performance in long-term cannabis users. Arch Gen Psychiatry 58:909–915
Posner MI (1978) Chronometric explorations of mind. Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ
Posner MI (1990) The attention system of the human brain. Ann Rev Neurosci 13:25–42
Posner MI (2004) (ed) Cognitive neuroscience of attention. Guildford Publication, New York
Posner MI, DiGirolamo G (1998) Executive attention: conflict, target detection and cognitive control. In R Parasuraman (ed) The attentive brain. MIT Press, Cambridge USA, pp 401–423
Ramaekers JG, Berghaus G, van Laar M, Drummer OH (2004) Dose related risk of motor vehicle crashes after cannabis use. Drug Alc Dep 73:109–119
Ramaekers JG, Moeller MR, van Ruitenbeek P, Theunissen EL, Schneider E, Kauert G (2006) Cognition and motor control as function of Δ9-THC concentration in serum and oral fluid: limits of impairment. Drug Alcohol Depend 85:114–122
Rogers RD, Everitt BJ, Baldacchino A, Blackshaw AJ, Swainson R, Wynne K, Baker NB, Hunter J, Carthy T, Booker E, London M, Deakin JFW, Sahakian BJ, Robbins TW (1999a) Dissociable deficits in the decision-making cognition of chronic amphetamine abusers, opiate abusers, patients with focal damage to prefrontal cortex, and tryptophan-depleted normal volunteers: evidence for monoaminergic mechanisms. Neuropsychopharmacology 20:322–339
Rogers RD, Owen AM, Middleton HC, Williams EJ, Pickard JD, Sahakian BJ, Robbins TW (1999b) Choosing between small, likely rewards and large unlikely rewards activates inferior and orbital prefrontal cortex. J Neurosci 20(19):9029–9038
Ronen A, Gertner R, Gershon P, Drobiner H, Bar-Hamburger R, Mechoulam R, Cassuto Y, Shinar D (2005) Effects of Δ9-THC on cognitive-motor skills (driving), physiological state and subjective feelings compared to the effects of 0.05% blood alcohol concentration. College of Drug Dependence Meeting, Orlando, FL, June 2005, abstract book pp 147.
Rotheram-Fuller E, Shoptaw S, Berman SM, London ED (2004) Impaired performance in a test of decision-making by opiate-dependent tobacco smokers. Drug Alc Dep 73:79–86
Rushworth MF, Walton ME, Kennerley SW, Bannerman DM (2004) Action sets and decisions in the medial frontal cortex. Trends Cog Sci 8(9):410–417
Schlag J, Schlag-Rey M (1987) Evidence for a supplementary eye field. J Neurophysiology 57:179–200
Schlag J, Schlag-Rey M (1990) Colliding saccades may reveal the secret of their marching orders. Int J Neurosci 13:410–415
Schultz W, Dayan P, Montague P (1997) A neural substrate of prediction of reward. Science 275:1593–1599
Sneider JT, Pope HG, Silveri MM, Simpson NS, Gruber SA, Yurgelun-Todd DA (2006) Altered regional blood volume in chronic cannabis smokers. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 14(4):422–428
Soderstrom CA, Dischinger PC, Kerns TJ, Trifillis AL (1995) Marijuana and other drug use among automobile and motorcycle drivers treated at a trauma center. Acc Anal Prev 27:131–135
Solowij N, Stephens RS, Roffman RA, Babor T, Kadden R, Miller M, Christiansen K, McRee B, Vendetti J (2002) Cognitive functioning of long-term heavy cannabis users seeking treatment. JAMA 287:1123–1131
Sorkin A, Weinshall D, Modai I, Peled A (2006) Improving the Accuracy of the Diagnosis of Schizophrenia by Means of Virtual Reality. Am J Psychiatry 163:512–520
Stoduto G, Vingilis E, Kapur BM, Sheu WJ, Mclellan BA, Liban CB (1993) Alcohol and drug use among motor-vehicle collision victims admitted to a regional trauma unit—demographic, injury, and crash characteristics. Acc Anal Prev 25:411–420
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2004) Results from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-25, DHHS Publication No. 04-3964, Rockville, MD.
Vogt BA, Finch DM, Olson CR (1993) Functional heterogeneity in the cingulated cortex: the anterior executive and posterior evaluative regions. Cerebral Cortex 2:435–443
Volkow ND, Gillespie H, Mullani N, Tancredi L, Grant, C, Valentine A, Hollister L (1996) Brain glucose metabolism in chronic marijuana users at baseline and during marijuana intoxication. Psychiat Res: Neuroimaging 67:29–38
Whitlow CT, Ligouri A, Livengood LB, Hart SL, Mussat-Whitlow BJ, Lamborn CM, Laurienti PJ, Porrino LJ (2004) Long-term heavy marijuana users make costly decisions on a gambling task. Drug Alc Dep 76:101–111
Wolfensteller U, Schubotz RI, von Cramon DY (2004) “What” becoming “where”: functional magnetic resonance imaging evidence for pragmatic relevance driving premotor cortex. J Neuroscience 24(46):10431–10439
This research was supported by the Israeli Anti Drug Authority. A preliminary version of this work was presented at the College of Problems of Drug Dependence 67th annual scientific meeting in Orlando Florida, June, 2005 and the College of Problems of Drug Dependence 68th annual scientific meeting in Scottsdale Arizona, June, 2006. We would like to thank the technicians of Dept. of Nuclear Medicine, Sourasky Medical Center in particular Mr. David Massuda, Dr. Adi Ronen from Ben Gurion University, the Association for Public Health, Dr. Avi Peled from the Shaar Menashe Mental Hospital in Israel. Dr. Weinstein is now supported by the Sacta Rashi Foundation, Paris, France, The Israeli Anti-drug authority and the National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel.
About this article
Cite this article
Weinstein, A., Brickner, O., Lerman, H. et al. Brain imaging study of the acute effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on attention and motor coordination in regular users of marijuana. Psychopharmacology 196, 119–131 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-007-0940-7
- Motor skills