Cue-induced striatal activity in frequent cannabis users independently predicts cannabis problem severity three years later

W. A. M. Vingerhoets, L. Koenders, W. van den Brink, R. W. Wiers, A. E. Goudriaan, T. van Amelsvoort, L. de Haan, J. Cousijn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Web of Science)


Cannabis is the most frequently used illicit drug worldwide, but little is known about the mechanisms underlying continued cannabis use. Cue-reactivity (the physical, psychological, behavioural and neural reaction to substance-related cues) might be related to continued cannabis use. In this 3-year prospective neuroimaging study we investigated whether cannabis cue-induced brain activity predicted continued cannabis use and associated problem severity 3 years later. In addition, baseline brain activations were compared between dependent and non-dependent cannabis users at follow-up. Analyses were focussed on brain areas known to be important in cannabis cue-reactivity: anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, ventral tegmental area, amygdala and striatum. At baseline, 31 treatment-naive frequent cannabis users performed a cue-reactivity functional magnetic resonance imaging task. Of these participants, 23 completed the 3-year follow-up. None of the cue-induced region of interest activations predicted the amount of cannabis use at follow-up. However, cue-induced activation in the left striatum (putamen) significantly and independently predicted problem severity at follow-up (p <0.001) as assessed with the Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test. Also, clinically dependent cannabis users at follow-up showed higher baseline activation at trend level in the left striatum compared with non-dependent users. This indicates that neural cue-reactivity in the dorsal striatum is an independent predictor of cannabis use-related problems. Given the relatively small sample size, these results are preliminary and should be replicated in larger samples of cannabis users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-158
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Addiction
  • cannabis
  • cannabis use disorder
  • cue-reactivity
  • fMRI
  • striatum

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