Cannabis Abuse Alter Brain Activity Regions Linked to Negative Emotion

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New study reports that young people with cannabis dependence have altered brain function, which may be the source of emotional disturbances and increased psychosis risk.

The findings of the study reveal negative long-term effects of heavy cannabis use on brain function and behavior, which remain largely unknown despite the drug’s wide use and efforts to legalize the substance. The study was published in Biological Psychiatry Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging on January, 2018.

The study reported resting brain activity data from the Human Connectome Project of 441 young adults and compared a smaller set of 30 people who met criteria for cannabis abuse with 30 controls. People with heavy cannabis use observed to have high connectivity in brain regions for reward processing and habit formation. The same regions have also been linked to development of psychosis in previous research.

The brain alterations were observed to be associated with heightened feelings of negative emotionality, where one feels a sense of rejection from others. The link highlights a potential biological mechanism for profoundly increased feelings in people with cannabis dependence. Adolescence is a critical period of brain development, making early use of cannabis particularly detrimental.

According to Cannabis Testing Market Report published by Coherent Market Insights, cannabis strains are raised to produce nominal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component. The measurement of resting brain activity is a relatively easy and non-invasive procedure, so the approach could be a useful measure for tracking the development of psychiatric symptoms with cannabis use.


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