Background Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance among patients with schizophrenia. Cannabis exacerbates psychotic symptoms and leads to poor functional outcomes. Dysfunctional cortical inhibition has been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia; however, the effects of cannabis on this mechanism have been relatively unexamined. The goal of this study was to index cortical inhibition from the motor cortex among 4 groups: schizophrenia patients and non-psychiatric controls dependent on cannabis as well as cannabis-free schizophrenia patients and non-psychiatric controls. Methods In this cross-sectional study, GABA-mediated cortical inhibition was index with single- and paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) paradigms to the left motor cortex in 12 cannabis dependent and 11 cannabis-free schizophrenia patients, and in 10 cannabis dependent and 13 cannabis-free controls. Results Cannabis-dependent patients with schizophrenia displayed greater short-interval cortical inhibition (SICI) compared to cannabis-free schizophrenia patients (p = 0.029), while cannabis-dependent controls displayed reduced SICI compared to cannabis-free controls (p = 0.004). SICI did not differ between cannabis dependent patients and cannabis-free controls, or between dependent schizophrenia patients compared to dependent controls. No significant differences were found for long-interval cortical inhibition (LICI) or intra-cortical facilitation (ICF) receptor function, suggesting a selective effect on SICI. Conclusion These findings suggest that cannabis dependence may have selective and differing effects on SICI in schizophrenia patients compared to controls, which may provide insight into the pathophysiology of co-morbid cannabis dependence in schizophrenia.
- Cortical inhibition
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation