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Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex N-Acetylaspartate/Total Creatine (NAA/tCr) Loss in Male Recreational Cannabis Users

      Background

      Cannabinoids present neurotoxic and neuroprotective properties in in vitro studies, inconsistent alterations in human neuroimaging studies, neuropsychological deficits, and an increased risk for psychotic episodes.

      Methods

      Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS), neuropsychological testing, and hair analysis for cannabinoids was performed in 13 male nontreatment-seeking recreational cannabis users and 13 male control subjects.

      Results

      A significantly diminished N-acetylaspartate/total creatine (NAA/tCr) ratio in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was observed in cannabis users (p = .0003). The NAA/tCr in the putamen/globus pallidum region correlated significantly with cannabidiol (R2 = .66, p = .004). Results of the Wisconsin Card Sorting test, Trail making Test, and D2 test for attention were influenced by cannabinoids.

      Conclusions

      Chronic recreational cannabis use is associated with an indication of diminished neuronal and axonal integrity in the DLPFC in this study. As chronic cannabis use is a risk factor for psychosis, these results are interesting because diminished NAA/tCr ratios in the DLPFC and neuropsychological deficits were also reported in schizophrenia. The strong positive correlation of NAA/tCr and cannabidiol in the putamen/globus pallidum is in line with neuroprotective properties of cannabidiol, which were also observed in in vitro model studies of Parkinson’s disease.

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