AUTHORS: Andriot T, Ohnmacht P, Vuilleumier P, Thorens G, Khazaal Y, Ginovart N, Ros T

Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 22(6): 1421–1431, June 2022


Current research indicates deficits in cognitive function together with widespread changes in brain activity following long-term cannabis use. In particular, cannabis use has been associated with excessive spectral power of the alpha rhythm (8–12 Hz), which is also known to be modulated during attentional states. Recent neuroimaging studies have linked heavy cannabis use with structural and metabolic changes in the brain; however, the functional consequences of these changes are still not fully characterized. This study investigated the electrophysiological and behavioral correlates of cannabis dependence by comparing patients with a cannabis use disorder (CUD; N = 24) with cannabis nonuser controls (N = 24), using resting state electroencephalogram (EEG) source-imaging. In addition to evaluating mean differences between groups, we also explored whether particular EEG patterns were associated with individual cognitive-behavioral measures. First, we replicated historical findings of elevated levels of (relative) alpha rhythm in CUD patients compared with controls and located these abnormalities to mainly prefrontal cortical regions. Importantly, we observed a significant negative correlation between alpha spectral power in several cortical regions and individual attentional performance in the Go/NoGo task. Because such relationship was absent in the nonuser control group, our results suggest that reduced prefrontal cortical activation (indexed by increased relative alpha power) could be partly responsible for the reported cognitive impairments in CUD. Our findings support the use of electroencephalography as a noninvasive and cost-effective tool for biomarker discovery in substance abuse and have the potential to directly inform future intervention strategies.

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