Modulation of risk-taking in marijuana users by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).

Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory and Developmental Disorders Program, Center for Health and Biological Sciences, Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Rua Piaui, 181, 10 Andar, Sao Paulo, SP 01241-001, Brazil.
Drug and alcohol dependence (Impact Factor: 3.6). 12/2010; 112(3):220-5. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.06.019
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cognitive deficits that are reported in heavy marijuana users (attention, memory, affect perception, decision-making) appear to be completely reversible after a prolonged abstinence period of about 28 days. However, it remains unclear whether the reversibility of these cognitive deficits indicates that (1) chronic marijuana use is not associated with long-lasting changes in cortical networks or (2) that such changes occur but the brain adapts to and compensates for the drug-induced changes. Therefore, we examined whether chronic marijuana smokers would demonstrate a differential pattern of response in comparison to healthy volunteers on a decision-making paradigm (Risk Task) while undergoing sham or active transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Twenty-five chronic marijuana users who were abstinent for at least 24h were randomly assigned to receive left anodal/right cathodal tDCS of DLPFC (n=8), right anodal/left cathodal tDCS of DLPFC (n=9), or sham stimulation (n=8); results on Risk Task during sham/active tDCS were compared to healthy volunteers from a previously published dataset. Chronic marijuana users demonstrated more conservative (i.e. less risky) decision-making during sham stimulation. While right anodal stimulation of the DLPFC enhanced conservative decision-making in healthy volunteers, both right anodal and left anodal DLPFC stimulation increased the propensity for risk-taking in marijuana users. These findings reveal alterations in the decision-making neural networks among chronic marijuana users. Finally, we also assessed the effects of tDCS on marijuana craving and observed that right anodal/left cathodal tDCS of DLPFC is significantly associated with a diminished craving for marijuana.

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