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fMRI Study of Neural Sensitization to Hedonic Stimuli in Long-Term, Daily Cannabis Users

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Human Brain Mapping

Francesca M. Filbey, Joseph Dunlop, Ariel Ketcherside, Jessica Baine, Tyler Rhinehardt, Brittany Kuhn, Samuel DeWitt and Talha Alvi

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Overview

This study expands upon prior work exploring the brain sensitivity to cannabis cues between long-term and nonusers. Participants were presented cannabis-related stimuli, naturally rewarding stimuli (i.e., fruit), or a neutral stimulus, while inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. The results revealed increased activation in the reward networks when cannabis users were shown the cannabis cues. This activation was greater than the normal activation produced by the naturally rewarding stimuli. Additionally, the level of reward activation in the users was significantly correlated to reported cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and marijuana-related problems. The disruption to the reward network leads to less reward activation to inherently and naturally rewarding stimuli (such as food or sex) and greater activation to the abused substance – cannabis.
fMRI demonstrated the reward network activation of cannabis cues relative to the natural reward (A) and neutral reward (B) in users compared to non-users.

fMRI demonstrated the reward network activation of cannabis cues relative to the natural reward (A) and neutral reward (B) in users compared to nonusers.

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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT
Francesca Filbey in dark blue blouse with lights, vertical. Professor and Director of Cognitive Neuroscience Research of Addictive Disorders; Bert Moore Chair; Associate Provost, UT Dallas

Francesca Filbey, PhD

Bert Moore Endowed Chair and Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Director, Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory of Addictive Disorders