Clinical Trial: Single Dose of CBDV Modulates Atypical Brain Circuitry in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder

London, United Kingdom: The administration of the phytocannabinoid CBDV (cannabidivarin) modulates brain chemistry in autistic patients in a manner that is typically associated with better patient outcomes, according to clinical data published in the journal Molecular Autism.

An international team of investigators from Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom assessed the administration of CBDV versus placebo in a cohort of male patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Researchers reported that CBDV dosing led to brain changes in the striatum that are typically associated with the mitigation of ASD symptoms.

Authors concluded: “A single dose of CBDV was sufficient to shift atypical striatal FC [functional connectivity] in the mature autistic brain towards the profile found at baseline in neurotypicals. … Future studies are required to determine whether modulation of striatal FC is associated with a change in ASD symptoms.”

Several observational trials have documented behavioral improvements in ASD patients administered whole-plant cannabis extracts. Most recently, a 2021 review of the relevant literature summarized: “Cannabis products [have been demonstrated to] reduce the number and/or intensity of different symptoms, including hyperactivity, attacks of self-mutilation and anger, sleep problems, anxiety, restlessness, psychomotor agitation, irritability, aggressiveness perseverance, and depression. Moreover, they [are associated with an] improvement in cognition, sensory sensitivity, attention, social interaction, and language.” 

Authors of the review concluded, “Cannabis and cannabinoids may have promising effects in the treatment of symptoms related to ASD and can be used as a therapeutic alternative in the relief of those symptoms.”

Full text of the study, “Modulation of striatal functioning connectivity differences in adults with and without autism spectrum disorder in a single-dose randomized trial of cannabidivarin,” appears in Molecular Autism. Additional information on cannabis and ASD is available from NORML.