Cannabis is one of the most commonly used illicit drugs globally. Mounting evidence indicates that cannabis use, particularly consumption during young adulthood, is related to adverse mental and behavioral outcomes and an increased risk of the onset and relapse of psychosis. However, the neuromechanism underpinnings of heavy cannabis use (HCU) in young adults remain largely unknown, and no study has yet investigated the development of hippocampal shape in young adults with HCU. Twenty young adults with HCU and 22 matched non-cannabis-use healthy controls (HCs) were enrolled. Neuroimaging scanning and clinical assessments for all participants were performed at baseline (BL) and 3-year follow-up (FU). The vertex-wise shape analysis was conducted to investigate aberrant hippocampal shape development in young adults with HCU. Aberrant shape development pattern of the hippocampus was observed in young adults with HCU. There was no significant difference in hippocampal shape between the groups at BL, but young adults with HCU at FU exhibited significant shape atrophy of the right dorsal anterior hippocampus related to HCs. In addition, there was a significantly lower growth rate of the right hippocampal shape. Furthermore, there were significant associations of heavy cannabis use, as indicated by the age at onset first and frequent cannabis use, with the growth rate of hippocampal shape in young adults with HCU. The aberrant hippocampal shape development may reflect the effect of heavy cannabis use on young adults and it may be a potential target for heavy cannabis use treatment for young adults.
Keywords: Growth rate; Heavy cannabis use; Hippocampal shape development; Young adults.
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