Background: Few studies have tested the hypothesis that adolescent cannabis users show structural brain alterations in adulthood. The present study tested associations between prospectively-assessed trajectories of adolescent cannabis use and adult brain structure in a sample of boys followed to adulthood.
Methods: Data came from the Pittsburgh Youth Study - a longitudinal study of ˜1000 boys. Boys completed self-reports of cannabis use annually from age 13-19, and latent class growth analysis was used to identify different trajectories of adolescent cannabis use. Once adolescent cannabis trajectories were identified, boys were classified into their most likely cannabis trajectory. A subset of boys (n = 181) subsequently underwent structural neuroimaging in adulthood, when they were between 30-36 years old on average. For this subset, we grouped participants according to their classified adolescent cannabis trajectory and tested whether these groups showed differences in adult brain structure in 14 a priori regions of interest, including six subcortical (volume only: amygdala, hippocampus, nucleus accumbens, caudate, putamen, and pallidum) and eight cortical regions (volume and thickness: superior frontal gyrus; caudal and rostral middle frontal gyrus; inferior frontal gyrus, separated into pars opercularis, pars triangularis, and pars orbitalis; lateral and medial orbitofrontal gyrus).
Results: We identified four adolescent cannabis trajectories: non-users/infrequent users, desisters, escalators, and chronic-relatively frequent users. Boys in different trajectory subgroups did not differ on adult brain structure in any subcortical or cortical region of interest.
Conclusions: Adolescent cannabis use is not associated with structural brain differences in adulthood.
Keywords: Adolescent; Brain structure; Cannabis; Magnetic resonance imaging.
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