Neuroimaging


Cannabis is the world’s most widely used illicit drug with about 10% of young adults in developed countries being regular users. Behavioral and pharmacological studies indicate that both acute and chronic exposure to cannabinoids is associated with impairments in a range of cognitive processes. Neuroimaging methods have provided powerful tools to study the in vivo effects of cannabis on brain function. While there are brain functional differences, such as reduced resting-state, prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex blood flow, between cannabis users and controls in healthy populations, brain structural abnormalities related to cannabis use have been reported inconsistently . In contrast, a neurotoxic effect (e.g. shrinkage of neuronal cell bodies and nuclei) of cannabis in animals has been confirmed in many cases. It is assumed, that  tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis, is the neurotoxic substance. The effects of cannabis on brain structure and function are of particular interest in psychosis patients, as cannabis is known to be a risk factor for psychosis and is widely used in patients with psychosis [17]. There is evidence from structural imaging studies showing robust volume reductions in front-temporal cortices and in the anterior cingulate in patients with schizophrenia suggesting that these changes are underlying pathophysiological processes of this disorder. Cannabis use may therefore be a moderating or causal factor contributing to grey matter alterations in schizophrenia and the development of psychotic symptoms.



 


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