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Neuroimage. 2019 Jan 1;184:834-842. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.10.013. Epub 2018 Oct 5.

Sex difference in brain CB1 receptor availability in man.

Author information

1
Turku PET Centre, Turku University Hospital, Finland; Department of Psychiatry, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Finland.
2
Turku PET Centre, Turku University Hospital, Finland; Department of Psychiatry, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Finland; Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
3
Department of Psychiatry, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Finland.
4
Turku PET Centre, Turku University Hospital, Finland.
5
Psychosis Studies Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, UK.
6
Department of Neuroimaging, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, UK.
7
Turku PET Centre, Turku University Hospital, Finland; Department of Psychiatry, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Finland. Electronic address: jahi@utu.fi.

Abstract

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has a widespread neuromodulatory function in the central nervous system and is involved in important aspects of brain function including brain development, cortical rhythms, plasticity, reward, and stress sensitivity. Many of these effects are mediated via the cannabinoid CB1 receptor (CB1R) subtype. Animal studies convincingly show an interaction between the ECS and sex hormones, as well as a sex difference of higher brain CB1R in males. Human in vivo studies of sex difference have yielded discrepant findings. Gender differences in CB1R availability were investigated in vivo in 11 male and 11 female healthy volunteers using a specific CB1R tracer [18F]FMPEP-d2 and positron emission tomography (PET). Regional [18F]FMPEP-d2 distribution volume was used as a proxy for CB1R availability. In addition, we explored whether CB1R availability is linked to neuropsychological functioning. Relative to females, CB1R availability was on average 41% higher in males (p = 0.002) with a regionally specific effect larger in the posterior cingulate and retrosplenial cortices (p = 0.001). Inter-subject variability in CB1R availability was similar in both groups. Voxel-based analyses revealed an inverse association between CB1R availability and visuospatial working memory task performance in both groups (p < 0.001). A CB1R sex difference with a large effect size was observed and should be considered in the design of CB1R-related studies on neuropsychiatric disorders. The behavioural correlates and clinical significance of this difference remain to be further elucidated, but our studies suggest an association between CB1R availability and working memory.

KEYWORDS:

Endocannabinoid; Sex difference; Working memory; cb1 receptor

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