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The effects of acute cannabidiol on cerebral blood flow and its relationship to memory: An arterial spin labelling magnetic resonance imaging study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Michael A.P. Bloomfield, Sebastian F. Green, Chandni Hindocha, Yumeya Yamamori, Jocelyn Lok Ling Yim, Augustus P.M. Jones, Hannah R. Walker, Pawel Tokarczuk, Ben Statton, Oliver D. Howes, H. Valerie Curran, Tom P. Freeman

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-989
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number9
Accepted/In press1 Jan 2020

King's Authors


Background: Cannabidiol (CBD) is being investigated as a potential treatment for several medical indications, many of which are characterised by altered memory processing. However, the mechanisms underlying these effects are unclear. Aims: Our primary aim was to investigate how CBD influences cerebral blood flow (CBF) in regions involved in memory processing. Our secondary aim was to determine if the effects of CBD on CBF were associated with differences in working and episodic memory task performance. Methods: We used a randomised, crossover, double-blind design in which 15 healthy participants were administered 600 mg oral CBD or placebo on separate days. We measured regional CBF at rest using arterial spin labelling 3 h after drug ingestion. We assessed working memory with the digit span (forward, backward) and n-back (0-back, 1-back, 2-back) tasks, and we used a prose recall task (immediate and delayed) to assess episodic memory. Results: CBD increased CBF in the hippocampus (mean (95% confidence intervals) = 15.00 (5.78–24.21) mL/100 g/min, t14 = 3.489, Cohen’s d = 0.75, p = 0.004). There were no differences in memory task performance, but there was a significant correlation whereby greater CBD-induced increases in orbitofrontal CBF were associated with reduced reaction time on the 2-back working memory task (r= −0.73, p = 0.005). Conclusions: These findings suggest that CBD increases CBF to key regions involved in memory processing, particularly the hippocampus. These results identify potential mechanisms of CBD for a range of conditions associated with altered memory processing, including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and cannabis-use disorders.

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