The acute effects of cannabidiol on emotional processing and anxiety: a neurocognitive imaging study

Michael A.P. Bloomfield, Yumeya Yamamori, Chandni Hindocha, Augustus P.M. Jones, Jocelyn L.L. Yim, Hannah R. Walker, Ben Statton, Matthew B. Wall, Rachel H. Lees, Oliver D. Howes, Valerie H. Curran, Jonathan P. Roiser, Tom P. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (SciVal)


Rationale: There is growing interest in the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD) across a range of psychiatric disorders. CBD has been found to reduce anxiety during experimentally induced stress in anxious individuals and healthy controls. However, the mechanisms underlying the putative anxiolytic effects of CBD are unknown. Objectives: We sought to investigate the behavioural and neural effects of a single dose of CBD vs. placebo on a range of emotion-related measures to test cognitive-mechanistic models of its effects on anxiety. Methods: We conducted a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover, acute oral challenge of 600 mg of CBD in 24 healthy participants on emotional processing, with neuroimaging (viewing emotional faces during functional magnetic resonance imaging) and cognitive (emotional appraisal) measures as well as subjective response to experimentally induced anxiety. Results: CBD did not produce effects on brain responses to emotional faces and cognitive measures of emotional processing, or modulate experimentally induced anxiety, relative to placebo. Conclusions: Given the rising popularity of CBD for its putative medical benefits, these findings question whether further research is warranted to investigate the clinical potential of CBD for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1539-1549
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Early online date21 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by a British Medical Association Foundation for Medical Research Margaret Temple Award to Dr Bloomfield. Dr Bloomfield was funded by a UCL Excellence Fellowship and is funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. Drs. Bloomfield and Hindocha and Professor Curran are supported by the National Institute for Health Research University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre. Mr. Yamamori is funded by a 4-year PhD Studentship in Science from the Wellcome Trust. Dr Freeman was funded by a senior academic fellowship from the Society for the Study of Addiction.


  • Anxiety
  • Cannabidiol
  • Cannabinoids
  • Emotional processing
  • fMRI
  • Neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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