Bayesian causal network modeling suggests adolescent cannabis use accelerates prefrontal cortical thinning

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • IMAGEN Consortium - (Author)
  • Neuroimaging Center
  • Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
  • Faculty of Psychology
  • University of Vermont
  • Université de Rennes 1
  • National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS)
  • CentraleSupélec
  • Laureate Institute for Brain Research
  • Heidelberg University 
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • King's College London (KCL)
  • University of Mannheim
  • Université Paris-Saclay
  • University of Nottingham
  • Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt
  • École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay
  • Assistance publique – Hôpitaux de Paris
  • Kiel University
  • Université de Bordeaux
  • University of Montreal
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Göttingen
  • TUD Dresden University of Technology
  • Fudan University


While there is substantial evidence that cannabis use is associated with differences in human brain development, most of this evidence is correlational in nature. Bayesian causal network (BCN) modeling attempts to identify probable causal relationships in correlational data using conditional probabilities to estimate directional associations between a set of interrelated variables. In this study, we employed BCN modeling in 637 adolescents from the IMAGEN study who were cannabis naïve at age 14 to provide evidence that the accelerated prefrontal cortical thinning found previously in adolescent cannabis users by Albaugh et al. [1] is a result of cannabis use causally affecting neurodevelopment. BCNs incorporated data on cannabis use, prefrontal cortical thickness, and other factors related to both brain development and cannabis use, including demographics, psychopathology, childhood adversity, and other substance use. All BCN algorithms strongly suggested a directional relationship from adolescent cannabis use to accelerated cortical thinning. While BCN modeling alone does not prove a causal relationship, these results are consistent with a body of animal and human research suggesting that adolescent cannabis use adversely affects brain development.


Original languageEnglish
Article number188
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

External IDs

PubMed 35523763
ORCID /0000-0001-5398-5569/work/150329531
ORCID /0000-0002-8493-6396/work/150330254