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Δ9-THC Disrupts Gamma (γ)-Band Neural Oscillations in Humans


Gamma (γ)-band oscillations play a key role in perception, associative learning, and conscious awareness and have been shown to be disrupted by cannabinoids in animal studies. The goal of this study was to determine whether cannabinoids disrupt γ-oscillations in humans and whether these effects relate to their psychosis-relevant behavioral effects. The acute, dose-related effects of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) on the auditory steady-state response (ASSR) were studied in humans (n=20) who completed 3 test days during which they received intravenous Δ9-THC (placebo, 0.015, and 0.03 mg/kg) in a double-blind, randomized, crossover, and counterbalanced design. Electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded while subjects listened to auditory click trains presented at 20, 30, and 40 Hz. Psychosis-relevant effects were measured with the Positive and Negative Syndrome scale (PANSS). Δ9-THC (0.03 mg/kg) reduced intertrial coherence (ITC) in the 40 Hz condition compared with 0.015 mg/kg and placebo. No significant effects were detected for 30 and 20 Hz stimulation. Furthermore, there was a negative correlation between 40 Hz ITC and PANSS subscales and total scores under the influence of Δ9-THC. Δ9-THC (0.03 mg/kg) reduced evoked power during 40 Hz stimulation at a trend level. Recent users of cannabis showed blunted Δ9-THC effects on ITC and evoked power. We show for the first time in humans that cannabinoids disrupt γ-band neural oscillations. Furthermore, there is a relationship between disruption of γ-band neural oscillations and psychosis-relevant phenomena induced by cannabinoids. These findings add to a growing literature suggesting some overlap between the acute effects of cannabinoids and the behavioral and psychophysiological alterations observed in psychotic disorders.

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