Emotion regulation in emerging adults with major depressive disorder and frequent cannabis use

Neuroimage Clin. 2021 Jan 26;30:102575. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2021.102575. Online ahead of print.


In people with mental health issues, approximately 20% have co-occurring substance use, often involving cannabis. Although emotion regulation can be affected both by major depressive disorder (MDD) and by cannabis use, the relationship among all three factors is unknown. In this study, we used fMRI to evaluate the effect that cannabis use and MDD have on brain activation during an emotion regulation task. Differences were assessed in 74 emerging adults aged 16-23 with and without MDD who either used or did not use cannabis. Severity of depressive symptoms, emotion regulation style, and age of cannabis use onset were also measured. Both MDD and cannabis use interacted with the emotion regulation task in the left temporal lobe, however the location of the interaction differed for each factor. Specifically, MDD showed an interaction with emotion regulation in the middle temporal gyrus, whereas cannabis use showed an interaction in the superior temporal gyrus. Emotion regulation style predicted activity in the right superior frontal gyrus, however, this did not interact with MDD or cannabis use. Severity of depressive symptoms interacted with the emotion regulation task in the left middle temporal gyrus. The results highlight the influence of cannabis use and MDD on emotion regulation processing, suggesting that both may have a broader impact on the brain than previously thought.

Keywords: Cannabis; Emotion regulation; Major depressive disorder; Neural activation.