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Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2015 Dec;16:63-70. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2015.08.007. Epub 2015 Aug 28.

Cannabis use in early adolescence: Evidence of amygdala hypersensitivity to signals of threat.

Author information

1
Vermont Center on Behavior and Health, Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05401, United States. Electronic address: philip.spechler@uvm.edu.
2
Vermont Center for Children, Youth, and Families, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05401, United States.
3
Vermont Center on Behavior and Health, Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05401, United States.
4
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, United Kingdom; Medical Research Council - Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, De Crespigny Park, London, United Kingdom.
5
Department of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Square J5, Mannheim, Germany.
6
Discipline of Psychiatry, School of Medicine and Trinity College Institute of Neurosciences, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.
7
University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Haus S10, Martinistr. 52, Hamburg, Germany.
8
Department of Psychiatry, Universite de Montreal, CHU Ste Justine Hospital, Canada.
9
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, United Kingdom; Department of Psychiatry, Universite de Montreal, CHU Ste Justine Hospital, Canada.
10
Neurospin, Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, CEA-Saclay Center, Paris, France.
11
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), Martinistrasse 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany.
12
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Campus Charité Mitte, Charité, Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, Germany.
13
Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Abbestr. 2-12, Berlin, Germany.
14
School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, United Kingdom.
15
Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest and Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M6A 2E1, Canada.
16
Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale, INSERM CEAUnit1000, "Imaging & Psychiatry", University Paris Sud, 91400 Orsay, France.
17
Department of Psychiatry and Neuroimaging Center, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany.

Abstract

Cannabis use in adolescence may be characterized by differences in the neural basis of affective processing. In this study, we used an fMRI affective face processing task to compare a large group (n=70) of 14-year olds with a history of cannabis use to a group (n=70) of never-using controls matched on numerous characteristics including IQ, SES, alcohol and cigarette use. The task contained short movies displaying angry and neutral faces. Results indicated that cannabis users had greater reactivity in the bilateral amygdalae to angry faces than neutral faces, an effect that was not observed in their abstinent peers. In contrast, activity levels in the cannabis users in cortical areas including the right temporal-parietal junction and bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex did not discriminate between the two face conditions, but did differ in controls. Results did not change after excluding subjects with any psychiatric symptomology. Given the high density of cannabinoid receptors in the amygdala, our findings suggest cannabis use in early adolescence is associated with hypersensitivity to signals of threat. Hypersensitivity to negative affect in adolescence may place the subject at-risk for mood disorders in adulthood.

KEYWORDS:

Adolescence; Amygdala; Cannabis; Emotion; Face processing; Faces; fMRI

PMID:
26347227
PMCID:
PMC4801124
DOI:
10.1016/j.dcn.2015.08.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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