Stress-induced cortical dopamine response is altered in subjects at clinical high risk for psychosis using cannabis

Christin Schifani, Jens Pruessner, Huai Hsuan Tseng, Naren Rao, Abanti Tagore, Alan A. Wilson, Sylvain Houle, Pablo M. Rusjan, Romina Mizrahi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Stress and cannabis use are risk factors for the development of psychosis. We have previously shown that subjects at clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR) exhibit a higher striatal dopamine response to stress compared with healthy volunteers (HV), with chronic cannabis use blunting this response. However, it is unknown if this abnormal dopamine response extends to the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Here, we investigated dorsolateral PFC (dlPFC) and medial PFC (mPFC) dopamine release using [11C]FLB457 positron emission tomography (PET) and a validated stress task. Thirty-three participants completed two PET scans (14 CHR without cannabis use, eight CHR regular cannabis users [CHR-CUs] and 11 HV) while performing a Sensory Motor Control Task (control scan) and the Montreal Imaging Stress Task (stress scan). Stress-induced dopamine release (ΔBPND) was defined as percent change in D2/3 receptor binding potential between both scans using a novel correction for injected mass of [11C]FLB457. ΔBPND was significantly different between groups in mPFC (F(2,30) = 5.40,.010), with CHR-CUs exhibiting lower ΔBPND compared with CHR (.008). Similarly, salivary cortisol response (ΔAUCI) was significantly lower in CHR-CU compared with CHR (F(2,29) = 5.08,.013; post hoc.018) and positively associated with ΔBPND. Furthermore, CHR-CUs had higher attenuated psychotic symptoms than CHR following the stress task, which were negatively associated with ΔBPND. Length of cannabis use was negatively associated with ΔBPND in mPFC when controlling for current cannabis use. Given the global trend to legalize cannabis, this study is important as it highlights the effects of regular cannabis use on cortical dopamine function in high-risk youth.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12812
JournalAddiction Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jul 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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