Neural responses to reward anticipation and feedback in adult and adolescent cannabis users and controls

Martine Skumlien, Claire Mokrysz, Tom P Freeman, Matthew B Wall, Michael Bloomfield, Rachel Lees, Anna Borissova, Kat Petrilli, James Carson, Tiernan Coughlan, Shelan Ofori, Christelle Langley, Barbara J Sahakian, H Valerie Curran, Will Lawn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (SciVal)


Chronic use of drugs may alter the brain’s reward system, though the extant literature concerning long-term cannabis use and neural correlates of reward processing has shown mixed results. Adolescents may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of cannabis than adults; however, this has not been investigated for reward processing. As part of the ‘CannTeen’ study, in the largest functional magnetic resonance imaging study of reward processing and cannabis use to date, we investigated reward anticipation and feedback in 125 adult (26–29 years) and adolescent (16–17 years) cannabis users (1–7 days/week cannabis use) and gender- and age-matched controls, using the Monetary Incentive Delay task. Blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses were examined using region of interest (ROI) analyses in the bilateral ventral striatum for reward anticipation and right ventral striatum and left ventromedial prefrontal cortex for feedback, and exploratory whole-brain analyses. Results showed no User-Group or User-Group × Age-Group effects during reward anticipation or feedback in pre-defined ROIs. These null findings were supported by post hoc Bayesian analyses. However, in the whole-brain analysis, cannabis users had greater feedback activity in the prefrontal and inferior parietal cortex compared to controls. In conclusion, cannabis users and controls had similar neural responses during reward anticipation and in hypothesised reward-related regions during reward feedback. The whole-brain analysis revealed tentative evidence of greater fronto-parietal activity in cannabis users during feedback. Adolescents showed no increased vulnerability compared with adults. Overall, reward anticipation and feedback processing appear spared in adolescent and adult cannabis users, but future longitudinal studies are needed to corroborate this.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1976-1983
Number of pages8
Issue number11
Early online date6 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anticipation, Psychological/physiology
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cannabis
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods
  • Motivation
  • Oxygen
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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