A new marijuana brain study being organized by researchers from Indiana University could shed light on a decades-old argument brewing between smokers and non-smokers.
Is there a serious impact that the drug can have on the brain, and if so, is that impact irreversible?
Psychologist Brian O’Donnell and colleague Sharlene Newman are in the process of recruiting “current and former users” to participate in the marijuana brain study.
The National Institutes of Health are funding the research with a $275,000 grant. The pair expect to select 90 people, aged 18 to 35.
“We’re comparing the subjects in the different groups,” said Newman, an associate professor and the director of IU’s Brain Imaging Facility, in comments to USA Today. “The group that’s never used marijuana is our baseline group.”
“From animal studies, there’s reason to believe it (marijuana use) will affect parts of the brain and also the connections between them, and some of our preliminary studies suggest that is the case,” said O’Donnell, a professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences.
The researchers are looking at former users because there is evidence that “smoking cannabis causes problems in the brain in terms of structure or in terms of function, but maybe people recover after they stop using it for a little while,” O’Donnell said.
Some of that evidence was reported by the Inquisitrearlier this year.
In November, there was a study released that showed frequent marijuana users had lower IQs than those who’d never smoked.
Frequent marijuana users also showed to have less brain volume in the orbitofrontal cortex, though they did have one thing to celebrate in the study.
The test, which included 48 users and 62 non-users, found that users had changes in connectivity that were greater than nonusers, which “may be considered a way of compensating for the reduction in volume,” noted Dr. Francesca Filbey, who added that it may explain “why chronic users appear to be doing fine, even though an important region of their brain is smaller in terms of volume.”
Still, even though this increased connectivity is present, the study authors warn marijuana users not to get too carried away with the finding.
These blossoming connections that are present during the first few years of regular use eventually go away, and the researchers note there was “a significant drop-off in new brain links after about six years of regular use.”
What do you think about the upcoming marijuana brain study, readers? Will it find significant and/or irreversible negative impacts on brain activity? Sound off in our comments section.
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