Faculty Advisor

Elisa M Trucco

Author Biographical Statement

Nicole Rodrigues is a Senior at Florida International University who double majors in Behavioral Neuroscience and Liberal Studies, and minors in Psychology. Nicole has been working under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Elisa Trucco and her student Benjelene Sutherland through directed independent research in Advanced Research and Creativity in Honors (ARCH) since August 2021; and has presented at the URFIU conference. Following graduation with a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Neuroscience and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, Nicole aspires to attend graduate school and continue research while obtaining her PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience.


A main concern regarding adolescent marijuana use is its long-term negative health effects, such as alterations to brain structure and function, which can lead to deficits in working memory (e.g., cognitive failures). This raises concerns for the development of proper executive functioning in marijuana-using adolescents. As such, understanding factors leading to adolescent marijuana use, such as personality, can allow for an assessment of predispositions that could pose a threat to their cognitive health. This study examined whether adolescent marijuana use mediates the effect of sensation-seeking on cognitive failures. An adolescent sample (N=165; 48.8% Female, 88.6% White, 84.9% Hispanic/Latinx, Mage=14.9) from a larger multi-wave study was assessed. Results show that high sensation-seeking tendencies predicted greater marijuana use (effect=0.08, p=0.02), and that marijuana use predicted greater false triggering (effect=0.96, p=0.01). Furthermore, a significant indirect effect between sensation-seeking and false triggering through days of marijuana use (effect=0.08, CI [0.01, 0.20]) was found. Findings suggest that marijuana use can impact executive functioning within the prefrontal cortex via alterations to myelination due to false signaling on oligodendrocytes. Additionally, a mature striatum coupled with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex during adolescence may predispose sensation-seeking adolescents to try marijuana without considering the risk of memory impairments.



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