Neural Correlates of Social Influence Among Cannabis Users

Date Published:

2017 Jun


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Although peer influence is an important factor in the initiation and maintenance of cannabis use, few studies have investigated the neural correlates of peer influence among cannabis users. The current review summarizes research on the neuroscience of social influence in cannabis users, with the goal of highlighting gaps in the literature and the need for future research. RECENT FINDINGS: Brain regions underlying peer influence may function differently in cannabis users. Compared to non-using controls, regions of the brain underlying reward, such as the striatum, show greater connectivity with frontal regions, and also show hyperactivity when participants are presented with peer information. Other subcortical regions, such as the insula, show hypoactivation during social exclusion in cannabis users, indicating that neural responses to peer interactions may be altered in cannabis users. SUMMARY: Although neuroscience is increasingly being used to study social behavior, few studies have specifically focused on cannabis use, and therefore it is difficult to draw conclusions about social mechanisms that may differentiate cannabis users and controls. This area of research may be a promising avenue in which to explore a critical factor underlying cannabis use and addiction.