We’ve all heard the warnings about cannabis and memory. Certainly being high can make it easier to forget what you were about to say, but even after the buzz is gone, many people believe that chronic marijuana use can hurt your ability to remember …
… you know, stuff.
But a new study is examining whether THC may actually help reverse the decline in cognitive function that typically comes with age.
Newsweek reports that one study, run by Oxford University, is probing potential medical therapies that use THC, part of a new wave of research into the interaction between cannabinoids and neurological conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Meanwhile, a study published this week in the journal Nature Medicine found that chronic low doses of THC could actually restore cognitive function in old mice. The brain’s endocannabinoid system, which interacts with THC when it’s consumed, plays a role in physiological functions like mood, memory, pain and appetite.
In one experiment, older mice actually outperformed younger mice in a maze after both groups were treated with THC. In another, both groups had to complete a task to locate a specific object; once treated with the drug, the older mice performed as well as younger mice who had not been given THC.
Related: Why is reliable marijuana science so hard to find?
Researchers actually found quantifiable improvement in some specific brain activity related to memory and learning after THC use. Of course, a finding in mice may not translate to the same finding in humans, but the group behind the study strongly endorsed further exploration of cannabis and THC’s restorative potential.
“(Cannabis preparations and THC) have an excellent safety record and do not produce adverse side-effects when administered at a low dose to older individuals,” the study argues. “Thus, chronic, low-dose treatment with THC or cannabis extracts could be a potential strategy to slow down or even to reverse cognitive decline in the elderly.”
Oxford associate professor Zameel Cader told Newsweek that the new research shows a lot of promise, but even if the findings remain true in humans, much more will need to be learned before cannabis could be used in this particular therapeutic manner.
“Testing in humans is going to be difficult,” Cader told Newsweek. “This is a challenge faced by anyone wanting to develop a therapy for a human disorder such as dementia. Human lifespan is very extensive. So the question would be, when would be the most appropriate time to give these kinds of medications? Over what period of time do you need to evaluate the effects? In humans it could be years before an effect is noticed.”
To read more about the studies, go to Newsweek.com.
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