Course Title: CE 4. Impact of Marijuana on the Developing Brain


Credit Hours: 3.0


Instructor(s) Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, PhD Andrew Prescot Erin McGlade


Impact of Marijuana on the
Developing Brain

Abstract & Learning Objectives

Marijuana (MJ) is the most commonly used illicit drug by adolescents in the US.  Research suggests that the integrity of the prefrontal cortex may be particularly salient for understanding both the risk for onset of MJ abuse and the transition into chronic use. Specifically, the frontal system has been shown to play a major role in self-regulation, inhibitory function, decision-making and initiation of behavioral responses. Observed deficits in frontally mediated executive functions in MJ users have raised the debate as to whether alterations in these frontal brain circuits are due to neurodevelopmental changes or the neurotoxic effects of cannabis exposure. This course will review the development of frontal circuits and their relationship to psychiatric disorders. Second, it will summarize recent findings on the effects of MJ in adolescents. Third, the course will present basics of magnetic resonance methods including MR spectroscopy often applied to study the effects of MJ.

Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, PhD

Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, PhD

USTAR Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah School of Medicine,
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Director, Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab,
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Director, Salt Lake City MIRECC, VSN 19,
Salt Lake City, UT, USA

The participant will achieve the following objectives:
(1) describe frontal developmental brain changes as they relate to “at risk” behavior,
(2) discuss recent studies on the effects of MJ on the adolescent brain, and
(3) understand application of advanced MR methods as they relate to drug effects.

Click here to view 43rd Annual Meeting presenter and program planner disclosures.

Speaker Biography

Deborah Yurgelun-Todd is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine, Associate Director of the VISN 19 Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), and Director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of Utah Brain Institute. Her research focus is on identifying the neurobiological and neuropsychological bases of major psychiatric disorders including depression, substance abuse, bipolar and schizophrenia as well as brain changes associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Dr. Yurgelun-Todd is an expert in the application of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques as well as the administration and analysis of neurocognitive tests. In recent work, she has applied multimodal imaging to examine the effects of substance abuse, the acute and chronic changes in mild TBI, and as potential trait markers for mood disorders and anxiety. She is also recognized for applying imaging techniques to study cortical changes during development in healthy children and adolescents, and during treatment intervention in adult patients.