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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Available from: Gerry Jager, Nov 30, 2015
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    • "During the gain anticipation period, both groups, i.e. cannabis users and healthy controls, showed a brain activation pattern commonly associated with reward and punishment processing, including the ventral striatum, the anterior insula, and the inferior frontal gyrus[3,20].In the left caudate and the left inferior frontal gyrus, cannabis users showed deficits in the differentiation between the conditions feedback of reward and control, a neural differentiation between feedback of reward and feedback of punishment was only observed in the left caudate nucleus and the right inferior frontal gyrus.3 : with small volume correction (S.V.C., radius 5 mm)We were not able to replicate previous findings of an altered ventral striatal BOLD activity during the anticipation of reward in cannabis users[18,19]. A possible explanation for this results may arise from the fact that the cannabis users investigated by Nestor and colleagues[19]showed a longer period of abstinence before fMRI (approximately 108 hours vs. 24 hours for the group investigated in the present study). "
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