Associations between adolescent cannabis use frequency and adult brain structure: A prospective study of boys followed to adulthood

Madeline H. Meier, Roberta A. Schriber, Jordan Beardslee, J. Hanson, Dustin Pardini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Few studies have tested the hypothesis that adolescent cannabis users show structural brain alterations in adulthood. The present study tested associations between prospectively-assessed trajectories of adolescent cannabis use and adult brain structure in a sample of boys followed to adulthood. Methods: Data came from the Pittsburgh Youth Study – a longitudinal study of ˜1000 boys. Boys completed self-reports of cannabis use annually from age 13–19, and latent class growth analysis was used to identify different trajectories of adolescent cannabis use. Once adolescent cannabis trajectories were identified, boys were classified into their most likely cannabis trajectory. A subset of boys (n = 181) subsequently underwent structural neuroimaging in adulthood, when they were between 30–36 years old on average. For this subset, we grouped participants according to their classified adolescent cannabis trajectory and tested whether these groups showed differences in adult brain structure in 14 a priori regions of interest, including six subcortical (volume only: amygdala, hippocampus, nucleus accumbens, caudate, putamen, and pallidum) and eight cortical regions (volume and thickness: superior frontal gyrus; caudal and rostral middle frontal gyrus; inferior frontal gyrus, separated into pars opercularis, pars triangularis, and pars orbitalis; lateral and medial orbitofrontal gyrus). Results: We identified four adolescent cannabis trajectories: non-users/infrequent users, desisters, escalators, and chronic-relatively frequent users. Boys in different trajectory subgroups did not differ on adult brain structure in any subcortical or cortical region of interest. Conclusions: Adolescent cannabis use is not associated with structural brain differences in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-199
Number of pages9
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Adolescent
  • Brain structure
  • Cannabis
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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