Preclinical evidence indicates that the endocannabinoid system is involved in neural responses to reward. This study aimed to investigate associations between basal serum concentrations of the endocannabinoids anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) with brain functional reward processing. Additionally, a personality measure of reward dependence was obtained. Brain functional data were obtained of 30 right-handed adults by conducting fMRI at 3 Tesla using a reward paradigm. Reward dependence was obtained using the subscale reward dependence of the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ). Basal concentrations of AEA and 2-AG were determined in serum. Analyzing the fMRI data, for AEA and 2-AG ANCOVAs were calculated using a full factorial model, with condition (reward > control, loss > control) and concentrations for AEA and 2-AG as factors. Regression analyses were conducted for AEA and 2-AG on TPQ-RD scores. A whole-brain analysis showed a significant interaction effect of AEA concentration by condition (positive vs. negative) within the putamen (x = 26, y = 16, z = −8, F13.51, TFCE(1, 54) = 771.68, k = 70, PFWE = 0.044) resulting from a positive association of basal AEA concentrations and putamen activity to rewarding stimuli, while this association was absent in the loss condition. AEA concentrations were significantly negatively correlated with TPQ reward dependence scores (rspearman = −0.56, P = 0.001). These results show that circulating AEA may modulate brain activation during reward feedback and that the personality measure reward dependence is correlated with AEA concentrations in healthy human volunteers. Future research is needed to further characterize the nature of the lipids’ influence on reward processing, the impact on reward anticipation and outcome, and on vulnerability for psychiatric disorders.
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We thank Kathrin Schwarte for her skillful technical support. We offer many thanks to the participants.
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Redlich, C., Dlugos, A., Hill, M.N. et al. The endocannabinoid system in humans: significant associations between anandamide, brain function during reward feedback and a personality measure of reward dependence. Neuropsychopharmacol. 46, 1020–1027 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-020-00870-x