New Study Finds THC May Help Those with PTSD by Impacting Amygdala

According to a new study the oral use of synthetic THC is associated with reduced amygdala activation in subjects with post-traumatic stress: Amygdala is “a roughly almond-shaped mass of gray matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions.” The study was according published in the journal Psychopharmacology and is titled Cannabinoid modulation of corticolimbic activation to threat in trauma-exposed adults: A preliminary study.



For the study researchers examined the effects of THC on corticolimbic responses to threatening imagery in subjects with and without PTSD, and compared it to those receiving a placebo.

According to the study, THC “lowered threat-related amygdala reactivity” in post-traumatic stress patients. This is important because, as noted by researchers, the amygdala is involved in threat processing – those with PTSD sometimes respond in a strong and hyperactive manner to certain imagery.



“These preliminary data suggest that THC modulates threat-related processing in trauma-exposed individuals with PTSD, which may prove advantageous as a pharmacological approach to treating stress- and trauma-related psychopathology”, states the study.

Below is the full text of the abstract of this study:

Rationale: Excessive fear and anxiety, coupled with corticolimbic dysfunction, are core features of stress- and trauma-related psychopathology, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Interestingly, low doses of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can produce anxiolytic effects, reduce threat-related amygdala activation, and enhance functional coupling between the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex and adjacent rostral cingulate cortex (mPFC/rACC) during threat processing in healthy adults. Together, these findings suggest the cannabinoid system as a potential pharmacological target in the treatment of excess fear and anxiety. However, the effects of THC on corticolimbic functioning in response to threat have not be investigated in adults with trauma-related psychopathology.



Objective: To address this gap, the present study tests the effects of an acute low dose of THC on corticolimbic responses to threat in three groups of adults: (1) non-trauma-exposed healthy controls (HC; n = 25), (2) trauma-exposed adults without PTSD (TEC; n = 27), and (3) trauma-exposed adults with PTSD (n = 19).

Methods: Using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-subjects design, 71 participants were randomly assigned to receive either THC or placebo (PBO) and subsequently completed a well-established threat processing paradigm during functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: In adults with PTSD, THC lowered threat-related amygdala reactivity, increased mPFC activation during threat, and increased mPFC-amygdala functional coupling.

Conclusions: These preliminary data suggest that THC modulates threat-related processing in trauma-exposed individuals with PTSD, which may prove advantageous as a pharmacological approach to treating stress- and trauma-related psychopathology.

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