Individual and combined effects of cannabidiol and Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol on striato-cortical connectivity in the human brain

J Psychopharmacol. 2022 Jun;36(6):732-744. doi: 10.1177/02698811221092506. Epub 2022 May 20.

Abstract

Background: Cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two major constituents of cannabis with contrasting mechanisms of action. THC is the major psychoactive, addiction-promoting, and psychotomimetic compound, while CBD may have opposite effects. The brain effects of these drugs alone and in combination are poorly understood. In particular, the striatum is implicated in the pathophysiology of several psychiatric disorders, but it is unclear how THC and CBD influence striato-cortical connectivity.

Aims: To examine effects of THC, CBD, and THC + CBD on functional connectivity of striatal sub-divisions (associative, limbic and sensorimotor).

Method: Resting-state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used across two within-subjects, placebo-controlled, double-blind studies, with a unified analysis approach.

Results: Study 1 (N = 17; inhaled cannabis containing 8 mg THC, 8 mg THC + 10 mg CBD or placebo) showed strong disruptive effects of both THC and THC + CBD on connectivity in the associative and sensorimotor networks, but a specific effect of THC in the limbic striatum network which was not present in the THC + CBD condition. In Study 2 (N = 23, oral 600 mg CBD, placebo), CBD increased connectivity in the associative network, but produced only relatively minor disruptions in the limbic and sensorimotor networks.

Outcomes: THC strongly disrupts striato-cortical networks, but this effect is mitigated by co-administration of CBD in the limbic striatum network. Oral CBD administered has a more complex effect profile of relative increases and decreases in connectivity. The insula emerges as a key region affected by cannabinoid-induced changes in functional connectivity, with potential implications for understanding cannabis-related disorders, and the development of cannabinoid therapeutics.

Keywords: CBD; Cannabinoids; THC; cannabis; fMRI; resting-state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Cannabidiol* / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids* / pharmacology
  • Cannabis*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Hallucinogens* / pharmacology
  • Humans

Substances

  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Cannabinoids
  • Hallucinogens
  • Cannabidiol
  • Dronabinol