Recent evidences have consistently reported lower glutamate (Glu) levels in various brain regions, including the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), in chronic schizophrenia but findings in the early (EP) or in the prodromal phase of the disorder are equivocal. Although regular cannabis use has been associated with an increased risk of subsequent psychosis and with a perturbed Glu signalling, to date, the critical question of whether or not Glu abnormalities exist in EP and are related to cannabis use remains unanswered. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to measure [GlumPFC] of 35 EP subjects (18 of whom were regular cannabis users) and 33 healthy controls (HC). For correlative analysis, neuropsychological performances were scored by a comprehensive cognitive battery. [GlumPFC] was lower in EP users comparing to both HC and EP non-users (P = 0.001 and P = 0.01, respectively), while no differences were observed between HC and EP non-users. In EP users Glu declined with age (r = −0.46; P = 0.04) but this relationship was not observed in non-users. Among neuropsychological profiles, working memory was the only domain that differentiates patients depending on their cannabis use, with users having poorer performances. In summary, our research revealed that cannabis use in EP is associated with Glu decreased levels, which are normally not seen in the early phase of the disorder. This finding is in line with previous 1H-MRS studies in cannabis users without a psychotic disorder and sheds light for the role of cannabis use in the progression of the disease.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.