Functional connectivity and cannabis use in high-risk adolescents.
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Adolescence is a unique neurodevelopmental period when regions of the brain most able to assess risk and reward are still in development. Cannabis use during adolescence has been associated with persistent negative outcomes. Although measures of resting brain activity are useful in assessing functional connectivity, such measures have not been broadly applied in adolescent cannabis-users.The goal of the present study was to analyze the associations between cannabis use and resting brain activity in a sample of high-risk adolescents.Eighty-two high-risk youth between 14-18 years old were recruited from a juvenile justice day program. Youth completed a brief neurocognitive battery including assessments of cannabis use and a 5-minute resting functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan. Intrinsic connectivity networks were extracted using the GIFT toolbox. Brain activity in a fronto-temporal network was compared in youth with high cannabis use vs. low cannabis use using an independent-samples t-test with alcohol use entered as a covariate.Analysis revealed two elements within the fronto-temporal network related to cannabis use: one in middle frontal gyrus related to high cannabis use, and one in middle temporal gyrus related to low cannabis use. Only the frontal source survived application of a cluster size threshold and was significant at p < 0.005.These results are consistent with patterns of activity in adult cannabis-users. The observed effect may reflect either pre-existing risk factors or near-term consequences of cannabis use. Prevention and intervention strategies that address fronto-temporal functioning may be particularly helpful in this population.