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J Psychoactive Drugs. 2010 Sep;42(3):401-12.

The influence of recency of use on fMRI response during spatial working memory in adolescent marijuana users.

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  • 1Yale University, Department of Psychiatry, New Haven, CT, USA.


Some neurocognitive recovery occurs within a month of abstinence from heavy marijuana use, yet functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revealed altered activation among recent and abstinent adult users. We compared fMRI response during a spatial working memory (SWM) task between adolescent marijuana users with brief and sustained durations of abstinence. Participants were 13 recent users (two to seven days abstinent), 13 abstinent users (27 to 60 days abstinent), and 18 nonusing controls, all ages 15 to 18. Groups were similar on demographics, had no psychiatric or medical disorders, and user groups were similar on substance histories. Teens performed a two-back SWM task during fMRI. Recent users showed greater fMRI response in medial and left superior prefrontal cortices, as well as bilateral insula. Abstinent users had increased response in the right precentral gyrus (clusters > or = 1328 microl, p < .05). Results suggest that adolescents who recently used marijuana show increased brain activity in regions associated with working memory updating and inhibition. This study preliminarily suggests that (1) recent marijuana use may disrupt neural connections associated with SWM and result in compensatory brain response, and (2) sustained abstinence from marijuana may be associated with improvements in SWM response among adolescents.

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