Poster D42, Monday, March 27, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Acute stress alters specific elements of cognitive flexibility in chronic cannabis users
Amy T Nusbaum1, Paul Whitney1, Carrie Cuttler1, Alexander Spradlin1, Ryan J McLaughlin1, John Hinson1; 1Washington State University
As recreational use of marijuana becomes increasingly common, there is an urgent need to better understand the long-term consequences of its use. In terms of effects on cognition, the current literature on chronic marijuana use is equivocal. Here we contrast chronic marijuana users and control subjects on multiple measures of cognitive flexibility (CF), the ability to adjust cognitive and behavioral strategies to changing environmental circumstances. We also manipulated acute stress using the Maastricht Acute Stress Test to determine if chronic cannabis use is associated with different physiological and cognitive stress reactions. Self-reported chronic users (N=40) and non-users (N=43) were randomly assigned to stress and control conditions, and then performed two different tasks measuring CF: (a) a well-established task switching measure, which also included assessment of the ability to overcome response competition, and (b) a novel measure of the ability to adjust top-down control of attention with shifts in the validity of cues that predicted the identity of target stimuli. The acute stress manipulation was effective, leading to increased cortisol levels and subjective stress ratings. Chronic cannabis users generally performed well on the CF measures, but when they were under acute stress they showed a larger effect of task switching on trials that required both inhibition of a dominant response and a switch from a previous rule. Our results suggest that investigations of the effects of chronic marijuana use on cognition should consider whether the effects vary depending on the degree to which situational challenges are also present.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Goal maintenance & switching