Study Summary: How THC Affects Brain Activity in PTSD Patients

A 2022 study entitled "Cannabinoid Modulation of Brain Activation During Volitional Regulation of Negative Affect in Trauma-exposed Adults" that was published in the journal Neuropharmacology investigated the potential benefits of administering delta-9 THC to patients suffering Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"Prior research among healthy subjects suggests that a low dose of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could attenuate the neurophysiological discrepancies that exist between individuals with and without PTSD during tasks of emotional processing," reported the study.


"Prior research among healthy subjects suggests that a low dose of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could attenuate the neurophysiological discrepancies that exist between individuals with and without PTSD."

The Study

The scientists reported that their study "aimed to investigate the effect of THC on negative affect and brain activation...during cognitive reappraisal among trauma-exposed individuals with and without PTSD." The double-blind study involved 51 subjects who were randomized to receive either THC or a placebo "before participating in a well-established emotion regulation task."


"THC, but not [the placebo], reduced negative affect," reported the study. It found that THC increased activity in part of the prefrontal cortex of the brain in response to exposure to neutral images.

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Results

The study revealed that PTSD patients "displayed less activation in the angular gyrus [area of the brain]...compared to the trauma-exposed control group." Compared to the placebo group, the THC group also displayed "increased cerebellar activation during exposure to neutral images in individuals with PTSD."


Compared to the placebo group, the THC group also displayed "increased cerebellar activation during exposure to neutral images in individuals with PTSD."

The research found that, of subjects who received THC, greater brain activity "was associated with less self-reported negative affect."The study's authors concluded that THC "may prove to be a beneficial pharmacological adjunct to cognitive reappraisal therapy in the treatment of PTSD."


View the original study.


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