May 9, 2021

Spatial patterns in functional brain connectomes reflect acute and chronic cannabis use.

Resting state fMRI has been employed to identify alterations in functional connectivity within or between brain regions following acute and chronic exposure to {Delta}9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in cannabis. Most studies focused a priori on a limited number of local brain areas or circuits, without considering the impact of cannabis on whole-brain network organization. The present study attempted to identify changes in the whole-brain human functional connectome as assessed with ultra-high field (7T) resting state scans of occasional (N=12) and chronic cannabis users (N=14) during placebo and following vaporization of cannabis. Two distinct data-driven methodologies, i.e. network-based statistics (NBS) and connICA, were used to identify changes in functional connectomes associated with acute cannabis intoxication and chronic cannabis use. Both methodologies revealed a broad state of hyperconnectivity within the entire range of major brain networks in chronic cannabis users compared to occasional cannabis users, which might be reflective of an adaptive network reorganization following prolonged cannabis exposure. The connICA methodology also extracted a distinct spatial connectivity pattern of hypoconnectivity involving the dorsal attention, limbic, subcortical and cerebellum networks and of hyperconnectivity between the default mode and ventral attention network, that was associated with the feeling of subjective high during THC intoxication across both user groups. Whole-brain network approaches identified spatial patterns in functional brain connectomes that distinguished acute from chronic cannabis use, and offer an important utility for probing the interplay between short and long-term alterations in functional brain dynamics when progressing from occasional to chronic use of cannabis.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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