Adverse Effects of Cannabis on Adolescent Brain Development: A Longitudinal Study

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Cannabis is widely perceived as a safe recreational drug and its use is increasing in youth. It is important to understand the implications of cannabis use during childhood and adolescence on brain development. This is the first longitudinal study that compared resting functional connectivity of frontally mediated networks between 43 healthy controls (HCs; 20 females; age M = 16.5 ± 2.7) and 22 treatment-seeking adolescents with cannabis use disorder (CUD; 8 females; age M = 17.6 ± 2.4). Increases in resting functional connectivity between caudal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and superior frontal gyrus across time were found in HC, but not in CUD. CUD showed a decrease in functional connectivity between caudal ACC and dorsolateral and orbitofrontal cortices across time. Lower functional connectivity between caudal ACC cortex and orbitofrontal cortex at baseline predicted higher amounts of cannabis use during the following 18 months. Finally, high amounts of cannabis use during the 18-month interval predicted lower intelligence quotient and slower cognitive function measured at follow-up. These data provide compelling longitudinal evidence suggesting that repeated exposure to cannabis during adolescence may have detrimental effects on brain resting functional connectivity, intelligence, and cognitive function.

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