The forgetful, lazy stoner stereotype could be dying a slow yet steady death. Researchers have potentially poked more holes in the notion that cannabis users are forgetful and that the plant causes memory loss.
In a study recently published in Nature Medicine, scientific researchers from the University of Bonn, Germany found that low doses of THC appear to improve the memory and learning abilities of older mice. This improvement in age-related decline of cognitive abilities could eventually lead to the development of treatment programs using medical marijuana to slow down the brain aging process in humans.
Functions of the endocannabinoid system typically decline as people get older. The research team indicated that this system could have something to do with the aging process. The researchers gave THC to mice at two, 12 and 18 months of age and then conducted various experiments to see how each group of mice would react. One experiment involved a water maze that the mice had to remember which directions to take. The older groups improved, while the younger mice did worse. The authors of the study wrote this was “in good agreement with the known detrimental effects of THC on cognition in young animals and humans.”
In another experiment involving partner recognition, the scientists found that THC led to improved memory in mature mice. “Together, these results reveal a profound, long-lasting improvement of cognitive performance resulting from a low dose of THC treatment in mature and old animals,” the authors said in the study.
The researchers also found that THC appeared to restore activity in the brain relating to memory and learning, called hippocampal gene transcription patterns. While the research produced promising results in older mice, the researchers made it clear that they weren’t sure how that would translate into treating humans.
“Cannabis preparations and THC are an excellent safety record and do not produce adverse side-effects when administered at a low dose to older individuals. Thus, chronic, low-dose treatment with THC or cannabis extracts could be a potential strategy to slow down or even to reverse cognitive decline in the elderly,” the authors of the study say.
Progressing this research forward will be difficult, the authors indicate. There could be a lot of challenging trial and error that needs to take place, as the most appropriate time to administer the cannabis medications is unknown, and the positive effects it could have on an aging human brain could take years to be noticed. Regardless, this is yet another promising example of the extremely versatile healing properties of medical cannabis.