Purpose of Review
This review examines the neurocognitive effects of cannabis and relevant developmental factors across adolescence (age 13–21), adulthood (21–65), and older adulthood (65 +).
Cannabis use is robustly associated with poorer neurocognitive functioning; however, studies that carefully control for confounds have often not found any evidence for impairment. Notably, the endocannabinoid system may underly how cannabis use affects neurocognitive functions, including heightened vulnerability during adolescence. In contrast, the endocannabinoid system may underlie protective neurocognitive effects of cannabis in older adults. Notably, older adults have reported sharp increases in recent cannabis use.
As legalization increases the accessibility, variety, and potency of cannabis, strong empirical evidence is needed to understand its neurocognitive effects across the lifespan. In particular, rigorous study designs are needed to investigate the neurocognitive effects of cannabis, including among vulnerable populations (adolescents, older adults) and mediating (e.g., endocannabinoid system) and moderating factors (e.g., alcohol use).
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We thank Melissa Roark and Jamie Cavanaugh for their help in preparing this manuscript.
Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health Grants DA000357 (JDH), DA042755 (JMR), DA044131 and AT009541 (LCB), DA050515 and AG066698 (ADB), DA032555 and DA042755 (CJH), and DA048069 and DA039707 (KEH).
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Ellingson, J.M., Hinckley, J.D., Ross, J.M. et al. The Neurocognitive Effects of Cannabis Across the Lifespan. Curr Behav Neurosci Rep 8, 124–133 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40473-021-00244-7