The acute and non-acute effects of cannabis on reward processing: A systematic review

Martine Skumlien, Christelle Langley, Will Lawn, Valerie Voon, H. Valerie Curran, Jonathan P. Roiser, Barbara J. Sahakian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Cannabis use has historically been thought to cause amotivation, but the relationship between cannabis and apathy, anhedonia, and reward processing remains poorly characterised. In this systematic review, we evaluated whether cannabis exposure acutely and/or non-acutely was associated with altered reward processing using questionnaire, behavioural, or functional neuroimaging measures. Questionnaire studies demonstrated greater anhedonia in adolescent cannabis users, and some indication of greater apathy in young adult cannabis users. Behavioural studies yielded some evidence of reduced reward learning in adolescent cannabis users, though there were too few studies in this category for reliable conclusions. Finally, longitudinal and acute functional neuroimaging studies showed an association between cannabis and blunted neural responses to reward, which did not emerge consistently in cross-sectional studies. The current results suggest that cannabis use is associated with specific impairments in reward and motivation. Future large-scale, longitudinal studies which use multiple behavioural and neuroimaging measures of reward processing may further clarify the impact of cannabis use on motivational and reward processes, and neural networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-528
Number of pages17
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Anhedonia
  • Apathy
  • Cannabis use
  • MID task
  • Motivation
  • Reward processing
  • THC


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