Indiana University Study Looking At Marijuana's Effects On The Brain
By Steve Elliott
With marijuana legalization gathering momentum daily, two scientists at Indiana University are looking at the effect of cannabis on the human brain.
"People have very strong opinions," said Professor Brian O'Donnell of Indiana University's School of Psychology and Brain Sciences, reports Dustin Grove at WISH-TV. "There are people who feel like marijuana is this deadly drug that causes brain damage. And other people feel it's highly therapeutic -- that it can cure PTSD, for example.
"We're looking for the evidence," O'Donnell said.
"Unfortunately we don't know a lot about what cannabis does to our brains," said Associate Professor Sharlene Newman, who directs the school's imaging facility.
The researchers are recruiting 30 volunteers for the study: 30 who have never used cannabis, 30 who used to smoke weed but don't anymore, and 30 current users.
Researchers will use brain scans from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to answer questions about how marijuana might alter the course of brain development in adolescence and early adulthood, "how much is too much" for particular age groups, and "whether stopping use allows for recovery."
If you seem to detect a distinct anti-cannabis bias in the slant of the research, you're likely not imagining things. The study is funded by a $275,000 federal grant from the National Institutes of Health, which normally funds only anti-marijuana studies which try to find dangers (which, by the way, are almost universally unsuccessful).
The best scientific research we have on the effect of cannabis on the brain, in fact, shows that marijuana not only doesn't damage the brain -- it can help repair it after trauma such as brain injuries, strokes, seizures, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and chemical damage from toxins like alcohol.
The cannabinoids don't just protect brain cells (as neuroprotectants); they can actually help build new brain cells (neurogenesis), which is probably the reason for many of marijuana's beneficial effects on the brain.
The United States federal government, in fact, holds a patent on the cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants; that certainly seems to fly in the face of claims that "we don't know what marijuana does to the brain."