Increased hippocampal blood flow in people at clinical high risk for psychosis and effects of cannabidiol

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Background Hippocampal hyperperfusion has been observed in people at Clinical High Risk for Psychosis (CHR), is associated with adverse longitudinal outcomes and represents a potential treatment target for novel pharmacotherapies. Whether cannabidiol (CBD) has ameliorative effects on hippocampal blood flow (rCBF) in CHR patients remains unknown. Methods Using a double-blind, parallel-group design, 33 CHR patients were randomized to a single oral 600 mg dose of CBD or placebo; 19 healthy controls did not receive any drug. Hippocampal rCBF was measured using Arterial Spin Labeling. We examined differences relating to CHR status (controls v. placebo), effects of CBD in CHR (placebo v. CBD) and linear between-group relationships, such that placebo > CBD > controls or controls > CBD > placebo, using a combination of hypothesis-driven and exploratory wholebrain analyses. Results Placebo-treated patients had significantly higher hippocampal rCBF bilaterally (all pFWE<0.01) compared to healthy controls. There were no suprathreshold effects in the CBD v. placebo contrast. However, we found a significant linear relationship in the right hippocampus (pFWE = 0.035) such that rCBF was highest in the placebo group, lowest in controls and intermediate in the CBD group. Exploratory wholebrain results replicated previous findings of hyperperfusion in the hippocampus, striatum and midbrain in CHR patients, and provided novel evidence of increased rCBF in inferior-temporal and lateral-occipital regions in patients under CBD compared to placebo. Conclusions These findings suggest that hippocampal blood flow is elevated in the CHR state and may be partially normalized by a single dose of CBD. CBD therefore merits further investigation as a potential novel treatment for this population.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
Early online date17 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Oct 2023


  • Hippocampus
  • Psychosis Risk
  • Arterial Spin Labelling
  • Cerebral Perfusion
  • Cannabidiol


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