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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2018 Jan 1;21(1):21-32. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyx082.

Cannabis Dampens the Effects of Music in Brain Regions Sensitive to Reward and Emotion.

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Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit, University College London, United Kingdom.
National Addiction Centre, King's College London, United Kingdom.
Imanova Centre for Imaging Sciences, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, London, United Kingdom.
Neuropsychopharmacology Unit, Division of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, United Kingdom.
Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Psychiatric Imaging Group, Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre, Hammersmith Hospital, London, United Kingdom.
Division of Psychiatry, University College London, United Kingdom.
Department of Psychology, University of Exeter, United Kingdom.



Despite the current shift towards permissive cannabis policies, few studies have investigated the pleasurable effects users seek. Here, we investigate the effects of cannabis on listening to music, a rewarding activity that frequently occurs in the context of recreational cannabis use. We additionally tested how these effects are influenced by cannabidiol, which may offset cannabis-related harms.


Across 3 sessions, 16 cannabis users inhaled cannabis with cannabidiol, cannabis without cannabidiol, and placebo. We compared their response to music relative to control excerpts of scrambled sound during functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging within regions identified in a meta-analysis of music-evoked reward and emotion. All results were False Discovery Rate corrected (P<.05).


Compared with placebo, cannabis without cannabidiol dampened response to music in bilateral auditory cortex (right: P=.005, left: P=.008), right hippocampus/parahippocampal gyrus (P=.025), right amygdala (P=.025), and right ventral striatum (P=.033). Across all sessions, the effects of music in this ventral striatal region correlated with pleasure ratings (P=.002) and increased functional connectivity with auditory cortex (right: P< .001, left: P< .001), supporting its involvement in music reward. Functional connectivity between right ventral striatum and auditory cortex was increased by cannabidiol (right: P=.003, left: P=.030), and cannabis with cannabidiol did not differ from placebo on any functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging measures. Both types of cannabis increased ratings of wanting to listen to music (P<.002) and enhanced sound perception (P<.001).


Cannabis dampens the effects of music in brain regions sensitive to reward and emotion. These effects were offset by a key cannabis constituent, cannabidol.


cannabis; emotion; music; pleasure; reward

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