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Schizophr Res. 2018 Apr;194:70-77. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2017.07.029. Epub 2017 Aug 18.

Understanding marijuana's effects on functional connectivity of the default mode network in patients with schizophrenia and co-occurring cannabis use disorder: A pilot investigation.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA; Department of Molecular and Systems Biology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA; Dartmouth Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA. Electronic address:


Nearly half of patients with schizophrenia (SCZ) have co-occurring cannabis use disorder (CUD), which has been associated with decreased treatment efficacy, increased risk of psychotic relapse, and poor global functioning. While reports on the effects of cannabis on cognitive performance in patients with SCZ have been mixed, study of brain networks related to executive function may clarify the relationship between cannabis use and cognition in these dual-diagnosis patients. In the present pilot study, patients with SCZ and CUD (n=12) and healthy controls (n=12) completed two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) resting scans. Prior to the second scan, patients smoked a 3.6% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabis cigarette or ingested a 15mg delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) pill. We used resting-state functional connectivity to examine the default mode network (DMN) during both scans, as connectivity/activity within this network is negatively correlated with connectivity of the network involved in executive control and shows reduced activity during task performance in normal individuals. At baseline, relative to controls, patients exhibited DMN hyperconnectivity that correlated with positive symptom severity, and reduced anticorrelation between the DMN and the executive control network (ECN). Cannabinoid administration reduced DMN hyperconnectivity and increased DMN-ECN anticorrelation. Moreover, the magnitude of anticorrelation in the controls, and in the patients after cannabinoid administration, positively correlated with WM performance. The finding that DMN brain connectivity is plastic may have implications for future pharmacotherapeutic development, as treatment efficacy could be assessed through the ability of therapies to normalize underlying circuit-level dysfunction.


Cannabis use disorder; Default mode network; Resting state functional connectivity; Schizophrenia; fMRI

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