Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol reduces the performance in sensory delayed discrimination tasks : a pharmacological-fMRI study in healthy volunteers

  • Background: Cannabis proofed to be effective in pain relief, but one major side effect is its influence on memory in humans. Therefore, the role of memory on central processing of nociceptive information was investigated in healthy volunteers. Methods: In a placebo-controlled cross-over study including 22 healthy subjects, the effect of 20 mg oral Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on memory involving nociceptive sensations was studied, using a delayed stimulus discrimination task (DSDT). To control for nociceptive specificity, a similar DSDT-based study was performed in a subgroup of thirteen subjects, using visual stimuli. Results: For each nociceptive stimulus pair, the second stimulus was associated with stronger and more extended brain activations than the first stimulus. These differences disappeared after THC administration. The THC effects were mainly located in two clusters comprising the insula and inferior frontal cortex in the right hemisphere, and the caudate nucleus and putamen bilaterally. These cerebral effects were accompanied in the DSDT by a significant reduction of correct ratings from 41.61% to 37.05% after THC administration (rm-ANOVA interaction "drug" by "measurement": F (1,21) = 4.685, p = 0.042). Rating performance was also reduced for the visual DSDT (69.87% to 54.35%; rm-ANOVA interaction of "drug" by "measurement": F (1,12) = 13.478, p = 0.003) and reflected in a reduction of stimulus-related brain deactivations in the bilateral angular gyrus. Conclusions: Results suggest that part of the effect of THC on pain may be related to memory effects. THC reduced the performance in DSDT of nociceptive and visual stimuli, which was accompanied by significant effects on brain activations. However, a pain specificity of these effects cannot be deduced from the data presented.
Author:Carmen Walter, Bruno Georg OertelORCiDGND, Lisa Felden, Ulrike NöthORCiD, Ralf DeichmannORCiD, Jörn LötschORCiDGND
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):IBRO reports
Place of publication:Amsterdam
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2019
Date of first Publication:2019/11/13
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2020/01/08
Tag:Cannabis; Clincial pharmacology; Human; Pain; Pharm-fMRI; Pharmacometrics
Page Number:12
First Page:117
Last Page:128
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of International Brain Research Organization. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell - Keine Bearbeitung 4.0