Opposite effects of δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on human brain function and psychopathology

Sagnik Bhattacharyya*, Paul D. Morrison, Paolo Fusar-Poli, Rocio Martin-Santos, Stefan Borgwardt, Toby Winton-Brown, Chiara Nosarti, Colin M. O'Carroll, Marc Seal, Paul Allen, Mitul A. Mehta, James M. Stone, Nigel Tunstall, Vincent Giampietro, Shitij Kapur, Robin M. Murray, Antonio W. Zuardi, José A. Crippa, Zerrin Atakan, Philip K. McGuire

*Corresponding author for this work
465 Citations (Scopus)


Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), the two main ingredients of the Cannabis sativa plant have distinct symptomatic and behavioral effects. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in healthy volunteers to examine whether Δ-9-THC and CBD had opposite effects on regional brain function. We then assessed whether pretreatment with CBD can prevent the acute psychotic symptoms induced by Δ-9-THC. Fifteen healthy men with minimal earlier exposure to cannabis were scanned while performing a verbal memory task, a response inhibition task, a sensory processing task, and when viewing fearful faces. Subjects were scanned on three occasions, each preceded by oral administration of Δ-9-THC, CBD, or placebo. BOLD responses were measured using fMRI. In a second experiment, six healthy volunteers were administered Δ-9-THC intravenously on two occasions, after placebo or CBD pretreatment to examine whether CBD could block the psychotic symptoms induced by Δ-9-THC. Δ-9-THC and CBD had opposite effects on activation relative to placebo in the striatum during verbal recall, in the hippocampus during the response inhibition task, in the amygdala when subjects viewed fearful faces, in the superior temporal cortex when subjects listened to speech, and in the occipital cortex during visual processing. In the second experiment, pretreatment with CBD prevented the acute induction of psychotic symptoms by Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Δ-9-THC and CBD can have opposite effects on regional brain function, which may underlie their different symptomatic and behavioral effects, and CBD's ability to block the psychotogenic effects of Δ-9-THC.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)764-774
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 02.2010


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