Study Suggests Marijuana could help Against Alzheimer's

Jamie Lusch/The Medford Mail Tribune via AP

Marijuana – Useful in Treating Alzheimer’s disease

Marijuana would someday be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease according to a study published this month in Aging and Mechanisms of disease. It was reported  that researchers at the Salk Institute had tested the effects of THC on lab grown neurons and found the cannabis compound hindered the plaque build-up which was linked with Alzheimer’s. The build-up is said to be the outcome of protein called amyloid beta that could result in inflammation of the cells in the brain, as per the press release of the researchers. The inflammation hinders the communication between neurons.

The study shows that THC tends to reduce the amount of amyloid beta proteins in the neurons as well as prevents inflammation. Researchers are certain that THC operates by distressing the same receptors in the brain which are involved by physical activity that can slow Alzheimer’s. Moreover the study not only shows that marijuana could also theoretically be utilised in treating Alzheimer’s but may clarify the link between amyloid beta proteins and inflammation. But additional testing inclusive of humans is essential before any strong conclusion.

Early Use of Marijuana – Change Physical Development of Brain

A new study reports that young teen that tend to smoke pot could end up with brains which seem amazingly different from those who use marijuana later on in life. Early use could change the physical development of youngsters’ brain and seems to obstruct the natural process wherein the body tends to eradicate unwanted neurons and synaptic connections according to the researchers.

As a consequence, the brains of people who began smoking at a younger age than 16 seem to have less surface wrinkles and folds in the outer layer of the brain known as cerebral cortex, as per study lead author Francesca Filbey who is chair of Behavioural and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas’ Centre for BrainHealth.

The researchers state that the cortex also seemed to be thicker in the case of early use in teens, indicating that less development had taken place. Yet, the study is unable to conclusively prove a cause-and effect connection. Filbey comments that the researchers could not rule out that the difference in the development of the brain could have driven early marijuana use instead of vice versa.

Influence of Marijuana on Dopamine Level in Brain

She added that it could probably be that having these changed brain patterns could have led to the greater marijuana use. However the alteration in the development of the brain could be due to the influence of marijuana on dopamine level in the brain that could impact on how the cortex tends to develop. MRI scans of 42 heavy marijuana users were analysed by the research team including 20 considered as `early onset’ users since they began before the age of 16.

 All of the study helpers had started utilising marijuana in their teens and continued till adulthood. The researchers claim that they had reported using pot at least once a week and explained that usual brain development in teens comprises of a process known as synaptic pruning. The brain tends to sharpen itself during this process by eliminating unwanted synapses and neurons and results in a thinner cortex which has more wrinkles and folds on its surface and larger contrast between gray and white matter of the brain.

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