Citicoline Treatment Improves Measures of Impulsivity and Task Performance in Chronic Marijuana Smokers: A Pilot BOLD fMRI Study

Int J Neurol Neurother. 2015 Sep 30;2(3):1-8.


Objective: Citicoline is an endogenous nucleotide that has historically been used to treat stroke, traumatic brain injury, and cognitive dysfunction. Research has also shown that citicoline treatment is associated with improved cognitive performance in substance-abusing populations. We hypothesized that marijuana (MJ) smokers who received citicoline would demonstrate improvement in cognitive performance as well as increased neural efficiency during tasks of cognitive control relative to those who received placebo.

Method: The current study tested this hypothesis by examining the effects of citicoline in treatment-seeking chronic MJ smokers. In an 8-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 19 MJ smokers were randomly assigned via a double-blind procedure to the citicoline (8 Males, 2 Females) or placebo group (9 Males, 0 Females). All participants completed fMRI scanning at baseline and after 8 weeks of treatment during two cognitive measures of inhibitory processing, the Multi Source Interference Test (MSIT) and Stroop Color Word Test, and also completed the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11), a self-report measure of impulsivity.

Results: Following the 8 week trial, MJ smokers treated with citicoline demonstrated significantly lower levels of behavioral impulsivity, improved task accuracy on both the MSIT and Stroop tasks, and exhibited significantly different patterns of brain activation relative to baseline levels and relative to those who received placebo.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that citicoline may facilitate the treatment of MJ use disorders by improving the cognitive skills necessary to fully engage in comprehensive treatment programs.

Keywords: Citicoline; Executive function; Impulsivity; Marijuana; Stroop Color Word Test; fMRI.