Strong epidemiological evidence linking schizophrenia (SCZ) and cannabis suggests that the endocannabinoid (eCB) system plays a key role in the pathophysiology of the disease. Early cannabis use increases the risk of developing SCZ by almost twofold, making cannabis a strong risk factor for SCZ [59,60], acting through an unknown molecular mechanism. Understanding the neuropathology of the early course of SCZ such as First Episode Psychosis (FEP) and the state of clinical high risk (CHR) that precedes FEP is critically needed to identify new therapeutic targets for prevention and treatment. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is the enzyme responsible for the metabolism of eCBs such as anandamide (AEA) setting the tone of the eCB, tightly regulating brain levels. In humans, dramatic elevations (up to eightfold) of AEA were detected in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of SCZ and first episode psychosis (FEP) [91,92], and importantly in CHR [136], suggesting the presence of altered eCB metabolism (reduced FAAH) early in the course of SCZ, including its high risk states. However, no study has investigated FAAH, the eCB gatekeeping enzyme, in-vivo in brain in FEP or CHR, and its relationship with behavior and cognition is currently unknown. Our team has synthesized [11C]CURB and demonstrated its excellent properties for selective and reliable PET brain imaging of FAAH [172]. We also established the safety, validation and dosimetry of [11C]CURB as well as its reproducible quantifiability [177,179]. Thus, the overall aim of our proposal is to use [11C]CURB to image the eCB enzyme FAAH using PET with a high-resolution research tomograph (HRRT) in antipsychotic-free patients with FEP and CHR. One hundred and fifty participants (n=50 FEP, n=50 CHR and n=50 HV) will be included to test our hypothesis. This study will help us understand a) whether there are changes in FAAH in the early course of disease (FEP

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This project aims to examine the levels of the endocannabinoid rate limiting enzyme Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) in first episode antipsychotic-free psychosis patients (FEP), and in those at clinical high risk (CHR) for the disease, in comparison with healthy individuals. This project will provide first in vivo evidence for altered FAAH in FEP and CHR, hence may help in developing new classes of therapies for CHR and FEP targeting the endocannabinoid system. This study will also explore ?for the first time- the role of brain FAAH in behavior and cognition in-vivo in these clinical populations. We hope this study will provide novel treatment targets to treat and perhaps even delay or abort transition to schizophrenia in those at risk (CHR).

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Neural Basis of Psychopathology, Addictions and Sleep Disorders Study Section (NPAS)
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Rumsey, Judith M
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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
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