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

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


Background: 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.

Methods: 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).

Results: 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).

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

Keywords: cannabis; emotion; music; pleasure; reward.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Cannabis / metabolism
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emotions / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / physiopathology
  • Music*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult


  • Cannabidiol
  • Oxygen