Comparing the effect of clozapine and risperidone on cue reactivity in male patients with schizophrenia and a cannabis use disorder: A randomized fMRI study: A randomized fMRI study

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Cannabis use disorders (CUDs) are highly comorbid in patients with schizophrenia and associated with poor outcome. Clozapine has been put forward as the first choice antipsychotic in this patient group. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying the assumed superiority of clozapine. A total of 38 patients with DSM-IV schizophrenia (30 with and 8 without a DSM-IV CUD) and 20 healthy comparison subjects were included between April 2009 and June 2012. Patients were randomized to antipsychotic treatment with clozapine or risperidone. At baseline and after 4weeks of medication, brain response to cannabis-related, positive and neutral images was measured using functional MRI. Neural correlates of cue reactivity were assessed in the following regions of interest: amygdala, ventral striatum, insula, thalamus, orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. Subjective craving was assessed using self-report questionnaires (OCDUS and MCQ). At baseline, patients with a comorbid CUD showed higher subjective craving and greater activation in response to cannabis-related images compared to patients without a CUD and healthy controls in most regions of interest. Clozapine treated patients reported a greater reduction in craving (F(1,28)=6.0, p=0.04) and showed a larger decrease in amygdala activation during cannabis-related images compared to risperidone treated patients (T=3.94, pFWE=0.006). In addition, significant correlations were found between subjective craving and thalamus and insula activation during cannabis-related images. These findings provide evidence that clozapine is superior to risperidone in decreasing subjective craving and cue reactivity for cannabis-related images probably due to a differential effect on dopaminergic neurotransmission. 'Nederlands trial register' (, nr NTR1761,
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-38
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Cannabis
  • Clozapine
  • Craving
  • Imaging
  • Risperidone
  • Schizophrenia

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