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Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2010 Dec;20(12):855-65. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2010.08.008. Epub 2010 Sep 22.

Cannabis use and progressive cortical thickness loss in areas rich in CB1 receptors during the first five years of schizophrenia.

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  • 1Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Cerebral grey matter volume reductions are progressive in schizophrenia, with larger grey matter volume decreases associated with cannabis use. It is unknown whether this grey matter loss is globally distributed over the entire brain or more pronounced in specific cortical brain regions. Fifty-one patients with recent-onset schizophrenia and 31 matched healthy subjects were included. For all subjects, magnetic resonance imaging scans were obtained at inclusion and at 5-year follow-up. Nineteen patients (ab-)used cannabis but no other illicit drugs; 32 patients and the healthy comparison subjects did not use any drugs during the 5-year follow-up. At follow-up, clinical outcome was measured. To evaluate the local differences in cortical thickness change over five years between the two groups regression analysis was carried out over the cortical surface. At inclusion cortical thickness did not differ between patients and controls and between cannabis-using and non-using patients. Over the follow-up period we found excessive thinning of the right supplementary motor cortex, inferior frontal cortex, superior temporal gyrus, angular gyrus, occipital and parietal lobe in patients relative to controls after controlling for cannabis use. Patients who used cannabis showed additional thinning in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), left anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and left occipital lobe as compared to those patients that did not use cannabis during the scan interval. First-episode schizophrenia patients who use cannabis show a more pronounced cortical thinning than non-using patients in areas known for their high density of CB1 receptors, such as the ACC and the DLPFC.

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