Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Brain Morphology: A Review of the Evidence

Yann Chye, Rebecca Kirkham, Valentina Lorenzetti, Eugene McTavish, Nadia Solowij, Murat Yücel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleOtherpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Cannabis and cannabinoid-based products are increasingly being accepted and commodified globally. Yet there is currently limited understanding of the effect of the varied cannabinoid compounds on the brain. Exogenous cannabinoids interact with the endogenous cannabinoid system that underpins vital functions in the brain and body, and they are thought to perturb key brain and cognitive function. However, much neuroimaging research has been confined to observational studies of cannabis users, without examining the specific role of the various cannabinoids (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, etc.). This review summarizes the brain structural imaging evidence to date associated with cannabis use, its major cannabinoids (e.g., Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol), and synthetic cannabinoid products that have emerged as recreational drugs. In doing so, we seek to highlight some of the key issues to consider in understanding cannabinoid-related brain effects, emphasizing the dual neurotoxic and neuroprotective role of cannabinoids, and the need to consider the distinct role of the varied cannabinoids in establishing their effect on the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-635
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Brain
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cannabis
  • CBD
  • MRI
  • THC

Cite this