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AUTHORS: Reagan R. Wetherill1; Nathan Hager1; Kanchana Jagannathan1; Yasmin Mashhoon2; Heather Pater1; Anna Rose Childress1; Teresa R. Franklin1
Addiction theories posit that addiction is the result of a progressive transition from voluntary to habitual, compulsive drug use, changes that have been linked, in animals, to a shift from ventral to dorsal striatal control over drug-seeking behavior. Thus, we hypothesized that Early Onset (EOs) versus Late Onset (LOs) cannabis users might exhibit, respectively, greater dorsal versus ventral striatal response to drug cues. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging and an event-related blood oxygen level-dependent backward-masking task to evaluate striatal responses to backward-masked cannabis cues (versus neutral cues) in EOs (<16 years old, n=15) and LOs (=16 years old, n=26) with similar recent cannabis use patterns. Direct comparisons revealed that EOs showed greater response to cannabis cues in the dorsal striatum than LOs (p<0.01, k>50 voxels). Within-group analyses revealed that EOs showed greater neural response to cannabis cues in the dorsal striatum; whereas, LOs exhibited greater neural response to cannabis cues in the ventral striatum. Though cross-sectional, these findings are consistent with recent addiction theories suggesting a progressive shift from ventral to dorsal striatal control over drug-seeking behavior and highlight the importance of age of onset of cannabis use on the brain and cognition.
Keywords: Cannabis; Cues; Age of Onset; Early Onset; Craving
1Department of Psychiatry
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA USA
Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA 02478, USA
Support: This work was funded by a Pennsylvania Department of Health Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement grant and by a NIH grant, K23AA023894.
Reagan R. Wetherill, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry
University of Pennsylvania
Treatment Research Center
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Philadelphia, PA 19104
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