Associations between adolescent cannabis use and brain structure in psychosis

Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2018 Jun 30;276:53-64. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2018.03.008. Epub 2018 Mar 28.


Associations between cannabis use and psychotic disorders suggest that cannabis may be a contributory risk factor in the neurobiology of psychosis. In this study, we examined brain structure characteristics, total and regional gray matter density (GMD), using Voxel Based Morphometry, in psychotic individuals, stratified by history of cannabis use (total n = 109). We also contrasted GMD estimates in individual diagnostic groups (schizophrenia/bipolar I disorder) with and without history of adolescent cannabis use (ACU). Individuals with psychosis as a whole, both with and without history of ACU, had lower total and regional GMD, compared to healthy controls. ACU was associated with attenuated GMD reductions, compared to non-users, especially in the schizophrenia cases, who showed robust GMD reductions in fronto-temporal and parietal cortex, as well as subcortical regions. Notably, total and regional GMD estimates in individuals with psychosis and ACU were not different from controls with no ACU. These data indicate that the history of ACU in psychotic individuals is associated with attenuated GMD abnormalities. Future investigations targeting potential unique etiological and risk factors associated with psychosis in individuals with ACU may help in understanding of the neurobiology of psychotic disorders and novel treatment options for these individuals.

Keywords: Cannabis; Gray matter density; Psychotic bipolar disorder; Schizophrenia; Voxel Based Morphometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Marijuana Use / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Young Adult