Cannabis use and brain structural alterations of the cingulate cortex in early psychosis.


As cannabis use is more frequent in patients with psychosis than in the general population and is known to be a risk factor for psychosis, the question arises whether cannabis contributes to recently detected brain volume reductions in schizophrenic psychoses. This study is the first to investigate how cannabis use is related to the cingulum volume, a brain region involved in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, in a sample of both at-risk mental state (ARMS) and first episode psychosis (FEP) subjects. A cross-sectional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study of manually traced cingulum in 23 FEP and 37 ARMS subjects was performed. Cannabis use was assessed with the Basel Interview for Psychosis. By using repeated measures analyses of covariance, we investigated whether current cannabis use is associated with the cingulum volume, correcting for age, gender, alcohol consumption, whole brain volume and antipsychotic medication. There was a significant three-way interaction between region (anterior/posterior cingulum), hemisphere (left/right cingulum) and cannabis use (yes/no). Post-hoc analyses revealed that this was due to a significant negative effect of cannabis use on the volume of the posterior cingulum which was independent of the hemisphere and diagnostic group and all other covariates we controlled for. In the anterior cingulum, we found a significant negative effect only for the left hemisphere, which was again independent of the diagnostic group. Overall, we found negative associations of current cannabis use with grey matter volume of the cingulate cortex, a region rich in cannabinoid CB1 receptors. As this finding has not been consistently found in healthy controls, it might suggest that both ARMS and FEP subjects are particularly sensitive to exogenous activation of these receptors.

University of Basel Psychiatric Clinics, Center for Gender Research and Early Detection, c/o University Hospital Basel, Petersgraben 4, CH-4031 Basel, Switzerland.

Source:  Psychiatry Res. 2013 Sep 17. pii: S0925-4927(13)00178-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2013.06.006.

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