Chronic effects of cannabis use on the human reward system: An fMRI study

Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Section Brain Function and Plasticity, University Medical Center, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
European neuropsychopharmacology: the journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (Impact Factor: 4.37). 03/2010; 20(3):153-63. DOI: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2009.11.010
Source: PubMed


Cannabis is one of the most used drugs of abuse. It affects the brain reward system in animals, and has proven rewarding and addictive potential in humans. We used functional MRI to measure brain activity during reward anticipation in a monetary reward task. Long-term cannabis users were compared to healthy controls. An additional control group consisting of nicotine users was included. Cannabis users showed attenuated brain activity during reward anticipation in the nucleus accumbens compared to non-smoking controls, but not compared to smoking controls. Cannabis users showed decreased reward anticipation activity in the caudate nucleus, compared to both non-smoking and smoking controls. These data suggest that nicotine may be responsible for attenuated reward anticipation activity in the accumbens, but that differences in the caudate are associated with the use of cannabis. Our findings imply that chronic cannabis use as well as nicotine, may cause an altered brain response to rewarding stimuli.

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    • "For optimal reward cues, functional MRI data showed significant brain activation for high (vs. low) reward cues (see also Van Hell et al. 2010), especially in the ventral striatum and ventral pallidum, which are output channels of the striatal dopamine system (Heimer and Van Hoesen 2006). However, although there was a significant increase in the effort people invested in the task for high versus low reward cues, no significant differences in brain activation were found for suboptimal reward cues. "
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    ABSTRACT: Reward cues have been found to increase the investment of effort in tasks even when cues are presented suboptimally (i.e. very briefly), making them hard to con-sciously detect. Such effort responses to suboptimal reward cues are assumed to rely mainly on the mesolimbic dopa-mine system, including the ventral striatum. To provide further support for this assumption, we performed two studies investigating whether these effort responses vary with individual differences in markers of striatal dopami-nergic functioning. Study 1 investigated the relation between physical effort responses and resting state eye-blink rate. Study 2 examined cognitive effort responses in relation to individually averaged error-related negativity. In both stud-ies effort responses correlated with the markers only for suboptimal, but not for optimal reward cues. These findings provide further support for the idea that effort responses to suboptimal reward cues are mainly linked to the mesolimbic dopamine system, while responses to optimal reward cues also depend on higher-level cortical functions.
    Motivation and Emotion 09/2014; 38(6). DOI:10.1007/s11031-014-9434-1 · 1.55 Impact Factor
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    • "Evidence of increased activity in the caudate nucleus (Saxena et al., 1998) and alterations in caudate volume have also been reported in OCD (Scarone et al., 1992). In contrast to AN and OCD, chronic substance use has been associated with decreased activation of the caudate during reward anticipation (van Hell et al., 2010). However, high scores on self-reported food addiction have been associated with increased activation in the caudate (Gearhardt et al., 2011), suggesting there may be differences in caudate activation between behavioral and substance addictions. "
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    ABSTRACT: The compulsive nature of weight loss behaviors central to anorexia nervosa (AN), such as relentless self-starvation and over-exercise, has led to the suggestion of parallels between AN and other compulsive disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and addictions. There is a huge unmet need for effective treatments in AN, which has high rates of morbidity and the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, yet a grave paucity of effective treatments. Viewing compulsivity as a transdiagnostic concept, seen in various manifestations across disorders, may help delineate the mechanisms responsible for the persistence of AN, and aid treatment development. We explore models of compulsivity that suggest dysfunction in cortico-striatal circuitry underpins compulsive behavior, and consider evidence of aberrancies in this circuitry across disorders. Excessive habit formation is considered as a mechanism by which initially rewarding weight loss behavior in AN may become compulsive over time, and the complex balance between positive and negative reinforcement in this process is considered. The physiological effects of starvation in promoting compulsivity, positive reinforcement, and habit formation are also discussed. Further research in AN may benefit from a focus on processes potentially underlying the development of compulsivity, such as aberrant reward processing and habit formation. We discuss the implications of a transdiagnostic perspective on compulsivity, and how it may contribute to the development of novel treatments for AN.
    Frontiers in Psychology 07/2014; 5:778. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00778 · 2.80 Impact Factor
    • "Drug-addicted individuals show a PFC dysfunction with a related decrease in performance during executive function tasks [10]. Within the reward system, an excessive sensitivity (i.e., enhanced brain responses) to drug-related stimuli [11-13] and reduced brain activity to non-drug rewards [13-16] has been described in individuals with alcohol and nicotine dependence, and increased brain activity in response to non-drug rewards has been found in individuals with cocaine dependence [17]. Taking these alterations into account, an imbalance between prefrontal brain activity and mesolimbic function has been suggested to contribute to addictive behavior [18,19]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Pathological gambling (PG) shares clinical characteristics with substance-use disorders and is thus discussed as a behavioral addiction. Recent neuroimaging studies on PG report functional changes in prefrontal structures and the mesolimbic reward system. While an imbalance between these structures has been related to addictive behavior, whether their dysfunction in PG is reflected in the interaction between them remains unclear. We addressed this question using functional connectivity resting-state fMRI in male subjects with PG and controls. Seed-based functional connectivity was computed using two regions-of-interest, based on the results of a previous voxel-based morphometry study, located in the prefrontal cortex and the mesolimbic reward system (right middle frontal gyrus and right ventral striatum). PG patients demonstrated increased connectivity from the right middle frontal gyrus to the right striatum as compared to controls, which was also positively correlated with nonplanning aspect of impulsiveness, smoking and craving scores in the PG group. Moreover, PG patients demonstrated decreased connectivity from the right middle frontal gyrus to other prefrontal areas as compared to controls. The right ventral striatum demonstrated increased connectivity to the right superior and middle frontal gyrus and left cerebellum in PG patients as compared to controls. The increased connectivity to the cerebellum was positively correlated with smoking in the PG group. Our results provide further evidence for alterations in functional connectivity in PG with increased connectivity between prefrontal regions and the reward system, similar to connectivity changes reported in substance use disorder.
    PLoS ONE 12/2013; 8(12):e84565. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0084565 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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