Longitudinal changes in white matter microstructure after heavy cannabis use

Mary P Becker, Paul F Collins, Kelvin O Lim, R L Muetzel, M Luciana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies of cannabis users report alterations in brain white matter microstructure, primarily based on cross-sectional research, and etiology of the alterations remains unclear. We report findings from longitudinal voxelwise analyses of DTI data collected at baseline and at a 2-year follow-up on 23 young adult (18–20 years old at baseline) regular cannabis users and 23 age-, sex-, and IQ-matched non-using controls with limited substance use histories. Onset of cannabis use was prior to age 17. Cannabis users displayed reduced longitudinal growth in fractional anisotropy in the central and parietal regions of the right and left superior longitudinal fasciculus, in white matter adjacent to the left superior frontal gyrus, in the left corticospinal tract, and in the right anterior thalamic radiation lateral to the genu of the corpus callosum, along with less longitudinal reduction of radial diffusion in the right central/posterior superior longitudinal fasciculus, corticospinal tract, and posterior cingulum. Greater amounts of cannabis use were correlated with reduced longitudinal growth in FA as was relatively impaired performance on a measure of verbal learning. These findings suggest that continued heavy cannabis use during adolescence and young adulthood alters ongoing development of white matter microstructure, contributing to functional impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-35
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Cannabis
  • DTI
  • Longitudinal
  • White matter
  • Young adult

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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