Translational studies of cannabis administration, cognition, and the endocannabinoid system in HIV

INVESTIGATORS: Arpi Minassian, PhD

STUDY LOCATION: University of California, San Diego

PROJECT TITLE: Translational studies of cannabis administration, cognition, and the endocannabinoid system in HIV


PROJECT TYPE: Clinical Study

STATUS:  Active


Understanding how co-morbidities in persons with HIV (PWH) such as substance use affect risk-taking, decision-making, and other cognitive behaviors is important given implications for everyday functioning and transmission risk. The high prevalence of cannabis use in PWH, medicinally and recreationally, may indicate disease severity, impart therapeutic benefits,or adverse consequences. In fact, cannabis is recommended to those with HIV to alleviate nausea, improve appetite, relieve pain, and lift mood. To-date, the consequences of cannabis use in PWH remain unclear as do potential interactions with HIV treatments. In healthy participants, heavy cannabis use is associated with cognitive deficits e.g., risky decision-making, response disinhibition and inattention, but pro-cognitive effects in PWH may exist at mild use levels due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-excitotoxic properties. Furthermore, little has been done to determine the effects of cannabis use on the endocannabinoid (EC) system in general or in PWH. This area of study is especially germane to cognition since the virus affects brain regions rich in ECs. CNS relevance is of particular importance given that the EC system exerts regulatory effects over the dopaminergic system, critical for these cognitive processes. This project will utilize a cross-species approach to delineate the effects EC system activation has on HIV-relevant cognitive and motivational domains. Animal studies enable mechanistic insights on chronic and withdrawal effects in this system. Both behavioral and mechanistic overlap will occur between the human and animal studies.