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Physiol Behav. 2019 Feb 1;199:395-404. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.12.006. Epub 2018 Dec 5.

Effects of chronic cannabinoid exposure during adolescence on reward preference and mPFC activation in adulthood.

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1
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
2
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA; Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA. Electronic address: jroitman@uic.edu.

Abstract

Cannabis is one of the most commonly used drugs among adolescents, with initial use beginning between the ages of 12 to 17. Although often perceived as a 'soft drug', both short- and long-term use have been associated with numerous adverse outcomes, including cognitive impairment, increased risk of substance abuse, and heightened risk of psychosis or schizophrenia in individuals with a predisposition. Further, the severity of these impairments is closely linked to initiation of use, i.e. earlier use increases risk. It has been suggested that adolescent vulnerability to the adverse consequences of cannabis use is due to ongoing brain development occurring during this time. Indeed, the adolescent brain continues to be remodeled well into adolescence and early adulthood, particularly in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been implicated in reward processing and decision-making and alterations in mPFC development due to adolescent cannabis exposure could impair these functions. To model the effects of cannabis on mPFC function, we administered the synthetic cannabinoid WIN 55, 212-2 (WIN) to male and female rats from postnatal day 30-60. Once animals reached adulthood, we used a Probabilistic Reward (PR) choice task to elicit PFC activity and measure how patterns of activity to task-related events were modulated by adolescent WIN-treatment. Adult animals showed subtle effects of WIN-treatment on choice patterns. During task performance, mPFC activity elicited by lever press at the time of choices and reward delivery following choices were reduced in WIN-treated animals. This lasting effect of WIN suggests an impairment of the maturation of excitatory-inhibitory balance of signals in mPFC during adolescence, which may alter executive function into adulthood.

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