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fMRI response to spatial working memory in adolescents with comorbid marijuana and alcohol use disorders


Alcohol and marijuana use are prevalent in adolescence, yet the neural impact of concomitant use remains unclear. We previously demonstrated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) response to spatial working memory (SWM) among teens with alcohol use disorders (AUD) compared to controls, and predicted that adolescents with marijuana aid alcohol use disorders would show additional abnormalities. Participants were three groups of 15-17-year-olds: 19 non-abusing controls, 15 AUD teens with limited exposure to drugs, and 15 teens with comorbid marijuana and alcohol use disorders (MAUD) and minimal other drug experience. After > 2 days' abstinence, participants performed a SWM task during fMRI acquisition. fMRI brain response patterns differed between groups, despite similar performance on the task. MAUD youths showed less activation in inferior frontal and temporal regions than controls, and more response in other prefrontal regions. Compared to AUD teens, MAUD youths also showed less inferior frontal and temporal activation, but more medial frontal response. Overall, MAUD youths showed different brain response abnormalities than teens with AUD alone, despite relatively short histories of substance involvement. This pattern could suggest compensation for marijuana-related attention and working memory deficits. However, relatively recent use and premorbid features may influence results, and should be examined in future studies. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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