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Altered cerebral blood flow and neurocognitive correlates in adolescent cannabis users

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Abstract

Rationale

The effects of adolescent marijuana use on the developing brain remain unclear, despite its prevalence. Arterial spin labeling (ASL) is a noninvasive imaging technique that characterizes neurovascular status and cerebral blood flow (CBF), potentially revealing contributors to neuropathological alterations. No studies to date have looked at CBF in adolescent marijuana users.

Objectives

This study examined CBF in adolescent marijuana users and matched healthy controls at baseline and after 4 weeks of monitored abstinence.

Methods

Heavy adolescent marijuana users (n = 23, >200 lifetime marijuana use days) and demographically matched controls (n = 23) with limited substance exposure underwent an ASL brain scan at an initial session and after 4 weeks of sequential urine toxicology to confirm abstinence.

Results

Marijuana users showed reduced CBF in four cortical regions including the left superior and middle temporal gyri, left insula, left and right medial frontal gyrus, and left supramarginal gyrus at baseline; users showed increased CBF in the right precuneus at baseline, as compared to controls (corrected p values < 0.05). No between group differences were found at follow-up.

Conclusions

Marijuana use may influence CBF in otherwise healthy adolescents acutely; however, group differences were not observed after several weeks of abstinence. Neurovascular alterations may contribute to or underlie changes in brain activation, neuropsychological performance, and mood observed in young cannabis users with less than a month of abstinence.

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Acknowledgment

We extend our appreciation to Anthony Scarlett and Rachel Thayer for their assistance with data collection and to participating families and schools. This research was made possible by funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (P20 DA024194, R01 DA021182, F31 DA026263), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (7R01 AA13419), and the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH084796).

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Correspondence to Susan F. Tapert.

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Jacobus, J., Goldenberg, D., Wierenga, C.E. et al. Altered cerebral blood flow and neurocognitive correlates in adolescent cannabis users. Psychopharmacology 222, 675–684 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-012-2674-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-012-2674-4

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