Modulation of effective connectivity during emotional processing by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol

Paolo Fusar-Poli*, Paul Allen, Sagnik Bhattacharyya, José A. Crippa, Andrea Mechelli, Stefan Borgwardt, Rocio Martin-Santos, Marc L. Seal, Colin O'Carrol, Zerrin Atakan, Antonio W. Zuardi, Philip McGuire

*Corresponding author for this work
108 Citations (Scopus)


Cannabis sativa, the most widely used illicit drug, has profound effects on levels of anxiety in animals and humans. Although recent studies have helped provide a better understanding of the neurofunctional correlates of these effects, indicating the involvement of the amygdala and cingulate cortex, their reciprocal influence is still mostly unknown. In this study dynamic causal modelling (DCM) and Bayesian model selection (BMS) were used to explore the effects of pure compounds of C. sativa [600 mg of cannabidiol (CBD) and 10 mg Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC)] on prefrontal-subcortical effective connectivity in 15 healthy subjects who underwent a double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled fMRI paradigm while viewing faces which elicited different levels of anxiety. In the placebo condition, BMS identified a model with driving inputs entering via the anterior cingulate and forward intrinsic connectivity between the amygdala and the anterior cingulate as the best fit. CBD but not Δ9-THC disrupted forward connectivity between these regions during the neural response to fearful faces. This is the first study to show that the disruption of prefrontal-subocrtical connectivity by CBD may represent neurophysiological correlates of its anxiolytic properties.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)421-432
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 05.2010


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