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Sensitivity, Specificity and Accuracy of a Novel EEG-Based Objective Test, the Cognalyzer®, in Detecting Cannabis Psychoactive Effects

Introduction Current standards for identifying recent cannabis use are based on body fluid testing. The Cognalyzer® is a novel electroencephalography (EEG) measurement device and algorithm designed to objectively characterize brainwave alterations associated with cannabis. The objective of this study was to assess the accuracy, sensitivity and specificity levels of the Cognalyzer® to characterize brainwave alterations following cannabis inhalation. Methods Seventy-five participants, aged 19–55 years, were enrolled, and oral fluid samples were collected pre-cannabis inhalation. EEG and subjective drug effects questionnaire (DEQ) were administered pre- and post-ad libitum cannabis inhalation. Fifty participants remained in the clinic for 4 h post-inhalation. Blinded analyses of the EEG files were conducted by Zentrela Inc. using two versions (V1 and V2) of the Cognalyzer® algorithm. Pre- vs. post-inhalation comparison status was characterized by the Cognalyzer® and summarized for: sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, percent false positive, percent false negative and positive and negative predictive value. The null hypothesis was tested using McNemar’s test. Cognalyzer® results pre- and post-inhalation were combined with the oral fluid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration to evaluate potential to improve current drug testing. Results The two versions of the Cognalyzer® algorithm had similar diagnostic results. Diagnostic outcomes were improved when participants with missing EEG recordings or electrode placement errors were removed. The Cognalyzer® accuracy was 85.5% and 83.9%, sensitivity was 87.1% and 88.7%, and specificity was 83.9% and 79.0% for algorithm V1 and V2, respectively. Combining Cognalyzer® results with oral fluid concentrations reduced false-positive oral fluid test results by up to 49%. Conclusion The Cognalyzer® characterized brainwave alterations associated with cannabis inhalation with high levels of accuracy in a population of participants with varied cannabis inhalation histories, relative to the comparison standard of pre- vs. post-inhalation status. The Cognalyzer® allows the results to be generalized to the larger population addressing a limitation in currently accepted standards.