Adolescents Show Differential Dysfunctions Related to Alcohol and Cannabis Use Disorder Severity in Emotion and Executive Attention Neuro-Circuitries


Alcohol and cannabis are two substances that are commonly abused by adolescents in the United States and which, when abused, are associated with negative medical and psychiatric outcomes across the lifespan. These negative psychiatric outcomes may reflect the detrimental impact of substance abuse on neural systems mediating emotion processing and executive attention. However, work indicative of this has mostly been conducted either in animal models or adults with Alcohol and/or Cannabis Use Disorder (AUD/CUD). Little work has been conducted in adolescent patients. In this study, we used the Affective Stroop task to examine the relationship in 82 adolescents between AUD and/or CUD symptom severity and the functional integrity of neural systems mediating emotional processing and executive attention. We found that AUD symptom severity was positively related to amygdala responsiveness to emotional stimuli and negatively related to responsiveness within regions implicated in executive attention and response control (i.e., dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, precuneus) as a function of task performance. In contrast, CUD symptom severity was unrelated to amygdala responsiveness but positively related to responsiveness within regions including precuneus, posterior cingulate cortex, and inferior parietal lobule as a function of task performance. These data suggest differential impacts of alcohol and cannabis abuse on the adolescent brain.


Includes supplementary material


Adolescent, Alcoholism, Amygdala, Marijuana Abuse, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Prefrontal Cortex, Gyrus Cinguli, Parietal Lobe, Emotions, Executive Function

NIH Mental Health grants K22-MH109558 and K01-MH110643.


CC BY 4.0 (Attribution), ©2018 The Authors