Early versus late onset of cannabis use: Differences in striatal response to cannabis cues EO Group Axial . Saggital . Coronal
LO Group Axial . Saggital . Coronal
EO > LO Group Axial . Saggital . Coronal

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Abstract 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
2McLean Hospital
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.

Contact Information:
Reagan R. Wetherill, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry
University of Pennsylvania
Treatment Research Center
3900 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 222-3200 ext. 141
Fax: (215) 386-6770
Email: rweth@mail.med.upenn.edu
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