360° Coverage : Even Recreational Marijuana May Be Linked To Brain Changes

2 Updates
Even Recreational Marijuana May Be Linked To Brain Changes
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

Even Recreational Marijuana May Be Linked To Brain Changes

Apr 15 2014, 9:02pm CDT | by

Adding to earlier evidence that marijuana may be linked to lasting neurological changes, a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience today finds that even casual pot smoking may have an effect on the...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

23 weeks ago

Even Recreational Marijuana May Be Linked To Brain Changes

Apr 15 2014, 9:02pm CDT | by

Adding to earlier evidence that marijuana may be linked to lasting neurological changes, a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience today finds that even casual pot smoking may have an effect on the size and structure of certain brain regions. The new research reports that for each additional joint a person smokes per week, the greater the odds of structural changes to areas involved in motivation, reward, and emotion. Though it seems like the country has embraced pot as a relatively harmless option in recent years, the authors of the study say that their findings suggest otherwise, especially for young people whose brains are still developing.

“This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” said study author Hans Breiter, psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Some of these people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week. People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case.”

In the new study, the team looked at the brains of people 18-25 years old, some of whom smoked pot recreationally and some who did not. None of the participants showed any signs of being addicted to the drug.

Using different brain imaging techniques, the researchers were able to measure the volume, shape, and grey matter density of two key structures: the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. The nucleus accumbens is involved in the reward circuit, including pleasure-seeking and motivation, and it’s strongly linked to addiction. The amygdala is involved in emotion, particularly in fear, anxiety, and the stress response, and in drug craving.

The team found that both brain structures varied in multiple ways, according to the number of joints per week the participants smoked – in other words, the more joints smoked, the more brain changes were evident. The nucleus accumbens was especially likely to show alterations in shape and density, and to be larger, as a function of joints per week.

“These are core, fundamental structures of the brain,” said study author Anne Blood, director of the Mood and Motor Control Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital and psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School. “They form the basis for how you assess positive and negative features about things in the environment and make decisions about them.”

What’s interesting about the study is that it suggests that even sometimes-smokers show changes in the brain. What’s not clear is whether there were differences in the pot smokers’ behavior or cognitive function. But the authors suggest that the brain changes seen here may be a sort of precursor to addiction: Earlier studies in animals have shown that the active ingredient in pot, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may affect neural connectivity, which could be an early sign of a bourgeoning addiction.

“It may be that we’re seeing a type of drug learning in the brain,” said author Jodi Gilman, at Massachusetts General Center for Addiction Medicine. “We think when people are in the process of becoming addicted, their brains form these new connections.”

Although a majority of people in the country support legalization of marijuana, not everyone is so convinced. Last year, Breiter’s team showed that everyday pot smoking in teenagers was, even two years after stopping, linked to brain abnormalities and to poorer working memory. “With the findings of these two papers,” Breiter said, “I’ve developed a severe worry about whether we should be allowing anybody under age 30 to use pot unless they have a terminal illness and need it for pain.”

The study will no doubt attract a lot of debate, as it raises as many questions as it answers. More research is clearly needed to know just how pot affects the brain and behavior over the long term. In the meantime, you may just want to pass on the pot – or at least wait till you’re 30 and your brain is done developing before you use it as a test subject in your own experiment.

Follow me @alicewalton or find me on Facebook.

 
Update
2

4 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (N ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

4 weeks ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17" ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Serious about taking forward civil nuclear deal: Modi
Washington, Sep 30 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday that he has conveyed to US President Barack Obama that India is "serious about taking forward" the civil nuclear deal with the US and resolving issues.
 
 
Sought access for Indian companies to American markets: Modi
Washington, Sep 30 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday that he has urged US President Barack Obama to take steps that would help Indian service companies get access to the US economy.
 
 
Unique 'signature' found in ageing brain
London, Sep 30 (IANS) In a discovery that may lead to treatments that can slow or reverse cognitive decline in the elderly, researchers have found evidence of a unique "signature" in the ageing brain.
 
 
Why drinking makes a smile more contagious among men
New York, Sep 30 (IANS) Alcohol induces a sort of "social bravery" among men, disrupting processes that would normally prevent them from responding to another person's smile, says an interesting study.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Hong Kong students threaten to occupy government offices
Hong Kong, Sep 30 (IANS/EFE) Student demonstrators have decided to step up their street protests and are planning to eventually take over and occupy government offices, leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
US slaps sanctions on Pakistan-based terror groups
Washington, Sep 30 (IANS) The US Tuesday targeted two terrorist groups based in Pakistan by slapping sanctions on their leader and financial supporters. The Department of Treasury branded Fazl-ur Rehman Khalil, the...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Elton John performed at Neil Patrick Harris' wedding
Neil Patrick Harris has revealed Sir Elton John gave a surprise performance at his wedding. The 'Gone Girl' star tied the knot with his long-term partner David Burtka at a castle near Perugia in Italy on September 6 and...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Molly Sims pregnant again
Molly Sims is pregnant with her second child. The model-and-actress has announced she is expecting another baby with her husband, film producer Scott Stuber, and she can't wait for their two-year-old son Brooks to...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Sadie Frost says Kate Moss oozes 'sex'
Sadie Frost thinks Kate Moss ''radiates sex''. The 49-year-old actress-and-producer has been friends with the supermodel for decades and says her aura has an permanently erotic element to it. Speaking to the new issue...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Hamas wants Islamic state on all Palestinian lands: Official
Gaza, Sep 30 (IANS) A senior Hamas official announced Tuesday that his movement still believes in establishing an Islamic state on all the lands of Palestine. Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Hamas strongman, said in a ceremony...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Asian Games: Indian men and women in semifinals
Incheon, Sep 30 (IANS) The Indian men and women's kabaddi teams made it to the semifinals of the 17th Asian Games after topping their respective groups here Tuesday. The men's team, record six time champions, brushed...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Israeli settlers seize houses in east Jerusalem
Jerusalem, Sep 30 (IANS) Dozens of Jewish settlers, escorted by heavy police force, took over at least seven empty buildings in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem Tuesday. The buildings are...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Indian men paddlers in Asiad pre-quarters
Incheon, Sep 30 (IANS) Indian men paddlers advanced to the doubles pre-quarterfinals after winning their respective matches of the 17th Asian Games at the Suwon Gymnasium here Tuesday. First up, the pair of Achanta...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
IS releases third video of British hostage
Beirut, Sep 30 (IANS/EFE) The Islamic State (IS) Sunni radical organisation has published a third video of British journalist and hostage John Cantlie in which he criticizes US President President Barack Obama's...
Read more on Politics Balla