A recent article from CBS News claims “marijuana hurts memory and cognition.” Using lab rats, scientists concluded cannabis causes the brain regions to “fall out of sync with each other.” Alcohol, a legal depressant, also causes memory loss. Oh well, at least we’re giggling with delight as our brain regions fall out of sync. Learn more after the jump.
Researchers studied the electrical activity in the nerve cells of rats to determine what the effects of THC would be. What they found was that individual brain regions went unaffected, but the cohesion between brain regions was thrown off.
The researchers measured the electrical activity in nerve cells of rats given a drug that mimics the effect of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The drug had only subtle effects on individual brain regions; however, it disrupted the coordinated activity between regions of the brain.
Specifically, they found the drug disrupted the coordinated fluctuations in electrical activity — called brain waves — across the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The result resembled two instruments within an orchestra playing out of sync.
A lack of synchronization between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex — areas of the brain associated with memory and decision-making — is also associated with schizophrenia.
If you recall, we already spoke about the possible psychosis involved in cannabis use. Specifically, the early onset of psychotic spells and schizophrenia in people that were already at risk of psychotic breaks with reality. So, if you’re at risk for schizophrenia, prolonged cannabis use augments those chances.
While “disrupted…activity between the brain regions” isn’t an effect anyone would want to encounter, and it’s the leading attribute among schizophrenia patients, it does not correlate memory loss and cannabis use.
I do think cannabis affects your short term memory, and can have longer side-effects for heavy tokers, but I don’t think it’s any more risky than drinking a lot of bourbon every night. If anything, cannabis provides a safe alternative to alcohol or prescription drug abuse. Does smoking herb meliorate your memory? Of course not. It may make you more creative, but it’s not a study tool or a completely benign pursuit.
Like with all substances we eat, snort or ingest in any way, there are risks. I just think the risk of memory loss isn’t substantial enough for our country to mark cannabis as a schedule 1 drug.
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