The acute effects of cannabidiol on the neural correlates of reward anticipation and feedback in healthy volunteers

Will Lawn, James Hill, Chandni Hindocha, Jocelyn Yim, Yumeya Yamamori, Gus Jones, Hannah Walker, Sebastian F. Green, Matthew B. Wall, Oliver D. Howes, H. Valerie Curran, Tom P. Freeman, Michael A.P. Bloomfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Cannabidiol has potential therapeutic benefits for people with psychiatric disorders characterised by reward function impairment. There is existing evidence that cannabidiol may influence some aspects of reward processing. However, it is unknown whether cannabidiol acutely affects brain function underpinning reward anticipation and feedback. Hypotheses: We predicted that cannabidiol would augment brain activity associated with reward anticipation and feedback. Methods: We administered a single 600 mg oral dose of cannabidiol and matched placebo to 23 healthy participants in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures design. We employed the monetary incentive delay task during functional magnetic resonance imaging to assay the neural correlates of reward anticipation and feedback. We conducted whole brain analyses and region-of-interest analyses in pre-specified reward-related brain regions. Results: The monetary incentive delay task elicited expected brain activity during reward anticipation and feedback, including in the insula, caudate, nucleus accumbens, anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortex. However, across the whole brain, we did not find any evidence that cannabidiol altered reward-related brain activity. Moreover, our Bayesian analyses showed that activity in our regions-of-interest was similar following cannabidiol and placebo. Additionally, our behavioural measures of motivation for reward did not show a significant difference between cannabidiol and placebo. Discussion: Cannabidiol did not acutely affect the neural correlates of reward anticipation and feedback in healthy participants. Future research should explore the effects of cannabidiol on different components of reward processing, employ different doses and administration regimens, and test its reward-related effects in people with psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-980
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number9
Early online date5 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • anticipation
  • Cannabidiol
  • cannabis
  • feedback
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • marijuana
  • motivation
  • reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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