Acute effects of different types of cannabis on young adult and adolescent resting-state brain networks

Natalie Ertl, Tom P. Freeman, Claire Mokrysz, Shelan Ofori, Anna Borissova, Kat Petrilli, H. Valerie Curran, Will Lawn, Matthew B. Wall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adolescence is a time of rapid neurodevelopment and the endocannabinoid system is particularly prone to change during this time. Cannabis is a commonly used drug with a particularly high prevalence of use among adolescents. The two predominant phytocannabinoids are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which affect the endocannabinoid system. It is unknown whether this period of rapid development makes adolescents more or less vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on brain-network connectivity, and whether CBD may attenuate the effects of THC. Using fMRI, we explored the impact of vaporized cannabis (placebo, THC: 8 mg/75 kg, THC + CBD: 8 mg/75 kg THC & 24 mg/75 kg CBD) on resting-state networks in groups of semi-regular cannabis users (usage frequency between 0.5 and 3 days/week), consisting of 22 adolescents (16–17 years) and 24 young adults (26–29 years) matched for cannabis use frequency. Cannabis caused reductions in within-network connectivity in the default mode (F[2,88] = 3.97, P = 0.022, η² = 0.018), executive control (F[2,88] = 18.62, P < 0.001, η² = 0.123), salience (F[2,88] = 12.12, P < 0.001, η² = 0.076), hippocampal (F[2,88] = 14.65, P < 0.001, η² = 0.087), and limbic striatal (F[2,88] = 16.19, P < 0.001, η² = 0.102) networks compared to placebo. Whole-brain analysis showed cannabis significantly disrupted functional connectivity with cortical regions and the executive control, salience, hippocampal, and limbic striatal networks compared to placebo. CBD did not counteract THC’s effects and further reduced connectivity both within networks and the whole brain. While age-related differences were observed, there were no interactions between age group and cannabis treatment in any brain network. Overall, these results challenge the assumption that CBD can make cannabis safer, as CBD did not attenuate THC effects (and in some cases potentiated them); furthermore, they show that cannabis causes similar disruption to resting-state connectivity in the adolescent and adult brain.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date28 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 May 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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