Overall, the results seem to support researchers’ belief that the benefits for older mice are a result of stimulating the brain’s endocannabinoid system, a biochemical pathway in both mice and human that grows less active over time. The scientists noted, “T o ge t h e r , t h e s e re s u lt s re ve a l a pr of ou n d , l on g – l a s t i n g improve me nt of c o g n it iv e p e r for man c e res u lt i ng f rom a l ow d o s e of TH C t re at m e nt i n m atu re an d ol d a ni m a l s .”
Researchers at the University of Bonn and Hebrew University have discovered that low, regular doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the main active ingredients or cannabinoids found in marijuana, may help to keep our brains from ‘slowing down’ as we get older. Published today in the journal Nature Medicine, the German study revealed that while younger mice suffered a performance drop under the influence of THC, the psychoactive chemical gave older mice a considerable performance boost, even putting them on par with younger mice who’d abstained.
The team plans to explore the potential impact of THC on older human brains with a clinical trial later this year, being one of few to focus on more aged subjects so far. Previous research with mice by the Universities of Bonn and Mainz also suggested that the brain’s main cannabis receptor and neural pathways are closely related to brain health in later life, and seem to play a role in preventing brain degeneration when active.
To test the chemical’s effect on brains of different ages, researchers put mice that were two months, one year, and 18 months old on a daily regimen of THC over the course of a month. The mice were then tested on their abilities to recognize familiar objects, and to navigate a water maze in known and new configurations.
As has been similarly observed with humans, younger animals excelled at the tests when ‘sober’ but tended to struggle significantly under the influence of THC. “Mature” and “old” mice, on the other hand, struggled with tasks as consistent with their brain ages at first, but saw a huge increase in performance with THC infusions that raised their skill level up to young-mouse (drug free) standards and continued for weeks afterward. Meanwhile, The Guardian reported, “None of the mice displayed the strange effects one might expect from doses of THC.”
Despite your average Shaggy and Scooby-style stereotypes, researchers believe that cannabis could actually help to sharpen our minds later in life.
Co-author Andras Bilkei-Gorzo told the Guardian, “If we can rejuvenate the brain so that everybody gets five to 10 more years without needing extra care then that is more than we could have imagined.”
A 2006 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology discovered that 86% of patients using marijuana successfully finished their therapies, while only 29% of the non-smokers completed their treatments, maybe because marijuana helps to lessen the treatments’ side effects.
The outcome was rather positive, the cells had decreased Id-1 expression, and were less aggressive spreaders. In fact, the American Association for Cancer Research has found that marijuana actually works to slow down tumor growth in brain, breast, and lungs considerately.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical objectives, and about 24 of the states now have some sort of medical marijuana legislation.
9. Decrease the symptoms of Dravet’s Syndrome
This is a bit complicated because it involves both positive and negative effects. Marijuana may disturb the sleep cycle by interrupting the later stages of REM sleep.
“Already many doctors and researchers believe that marijuana has incredibly powerful neuroprotective properties, an understanding based on both laboratory, and clinical data.”
Marijuana maybe a better sleep aid than some other medications or even alcohol because the latter two may potentially have worse effects on sleep, though more research is needed on the topic.
A recent study in the journal Cerebral Cortex showed possibilities that marijuana can help heal the brain after a concussion, or other traumatic injury.
And the research landscape, so far, is about as complicated as the drug itself. Some studies show that marijuana may provide relief for patients with a slew of conditions, such as anxiety, chronic pain and even cancer. Yet others find that the drug can slow cognitive function and may worsen some mental health conditions.
Our understanding of marijuana’s effect on mental health is murky. Some studies suggest it might exacerbate conditions like schizophrenia or psychosis, but the results aren’t always black and white.
What marijuana research in humans tells us so far about the drug’s benefits and drawbacks.
The bottom line is this: Research on marijuana remains inconclusive. Results differ from person to person, depending on why and how they use the drug.
That could explain why some recreational users seek out super-loaded quantities of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the strains they smoke. THC is what makes users high; its sister component, cannabidiol (CBD), does not. From 1995 to 2014, THC content in recreational marijuana increased from 4 to 12 percent, while the CBD content in modern-day weed is barely 0.15 percent.
In another study, the same researchers also analyzed data from cancer patients who routinely used medical marijuana to manage their symptoms. Drawing results from just over 1,200 patients, they found that over 95 percent reported an improvement in their symptoms, which ranged from sleep problems and lack of appetite to weakness, nausea and pain.