Trauma exposure among cannabis use disorder individuals was associated with a craving-correlated non-habituating amygdala response to aversive cues

Drug Alcohol Depend Rep. 2022 Sep 29:5:100098. doi: 10.1016/j.dadr.2022.100098. eCollection 2022 Dec.


The relationship of cannabis-use disorder and trauma exposure at the level of the brain is not well-understood. Cue-reactivity paradigms have largely focused on characterizing aberrant subcortical function by averaging across the entire task. However, changes across the task, including a non-habituating amygdala response (NHAR), may be a useful biomarker for relapse vulnerability and other pathology. This secondary analysis utilized existing fMRI data from a CUD population with (TR-Y, n = 18) or without trauma (TR-N, n = 15). Amygdala reactivity to novel and repeated aversive cues was examined between TR-Y vs. TR-N groups, using a repeated measures ANOVA. Analysis revealed a significant interaction between TR-Y vs. TR-N and amygdala response to novel vs. repeated cues in the amygdala (right: F (1,31) = 5.31, p = 0.028; left: F (1,31) = 7.42, p = 0.011). In the TR-Y group, a NHAR was evident, while the TR-N group exhibited amygdala habituation, resulting in a significant difference between groups of amygdala reactivity to repeated cues (right: p = 0.002; left: p < 0.001). The NHAR in the TR-Y (but not TR-N) group was significantly correlated with higher cannabis craving scores, yielding a significant group difference (z = 2.1, p = 0.018). Results suggest trauma interacts with the brain's sensitivity to aversive cues, offering a neural explanation for the relationship between trauma and CUD vulnerability. These findings suggest the importance of considering the temporal dynamics of cue reactivity and trauma history in future studies and treatment planning, as this distinction may help decrease relapse vulnerability.

Keywords: Amygdala; Cannabis; Cue-reactivity; Temporal dynamics; Trauma.