Chronic effects of cannabis use on the human reward system: an fMRI study
Cannabis is one of the most used drugs of abuse. It affects the brain reward system in animals, and has proven rewarding and addictive potential in humans. We used functional MRI to measure brain activity during reward anticipation in a monetary reward task. Long-term cannabis users were compared to healthy controls. An additional control group consisting of nicotine users was included. Cannabis users showed attenuated brain activity during reward anticipation in the nucleus accumbens compared to non-smoking controls, but not compared to smoking controls. Cannabis users showed decreased reward anticipation activity in the caudate nucleus, compared to both non-smoking and smoking controls. These data suggest that nicotine may be responsible for attenuated reward anticipation activity in the accumbens, but that differences in the caudate are associated with the use of cannabis. Our findings imply that chronic cannabis use as well as nicotine, may cause an altered brain response to rewarding stimuli.