Tuesday , March 21 2023

Atypical: Changes in teenage brain volume using a small amount of cannabis


While several countries are moving towards legalizing marijuana, new research suggests that concerns about the effect of medicines on adolescents may be justified. Study Published in The Neurology magazineshows that even a small number of cannabis use in adolescents is due to differences in the brain.

Senior author and University of Vermont (UVM) Professor of Psychiatry Hugh Garavan, Doctor, and first author and former postdoctoral researcher Catherine Orr, Ph.D., says this study is the first to provide evidence that gray matter volume in some adolescent brain there is a weak chance of marijuana use in parts.

Some studies have looked at the effects of the first use of drugs, says Garavan. Most researchers focus on heavy marijuana users later in life and compare them with non-users. These new findings point to an important new focus area.

"It seems that only one or two joints in these years have changed the amount of gray matter in young adolescents," says Garavan.

The new study, part of a long-term European project known as IMAGEN, included 46 children who reported having used cannabis once or twice at age 14. Their brain showed more gray matter in places where cannabis binds, known as cannabinoid receptors, compared to children who did not use the drug. The biggest differences in gray matter were in the amygdala involved in fear and other emotional processes, as well as in the hippocampus involved in memory development and spatial abilities.

To take advantage of the longitudinal data of the study, the researchers excluded the possibility that children with cannabis use had pre-existing differences in gray matter thickness or had specific personality traits that might be related to brain makeup differences.

"This means that it is a potential consequence of cannabis use," says Garavan. “You change your brain with one or two joints. Most people are likely to assume that one or two joints will not affect the brain.

It is not clear what the amount of brain substance increases.

Usually at this age, Garavan says that the adolescent brain is subjected to a 'pruning' process where it becomes thinner, not thicker because it improves synaptic connections.

"One possibility is that they have actually hampered this pruning process," said Garavan as a marijuana user.


Larner Medical College, University of Vermont. The original was written by Jennifer Nachbur. .

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