I'm sure you've come across the claim that cannabis users are lazy and unmotivated. In what follows, you will find that this is not the case, and you will have a strong argument against such talk. In fact, research shows that cannabis has the opposite effect on the human brain. Read on to fully understand how and why this is so.
As a society, we are still a long way from breaking the stigma around cannabis users. The average cannabis user is currently seen as lazy and unmotivated. Many people still believe that cannabis reduces the presence of neurons in the human brain. This is not true.
The term neurogenesis refers to the development and growth of neurons. Although it is most active when we are developing in utero, this process still continues into adulthood. This was only discovered in the 1960s. Until then, neurogenesis was thought to stagnate after birth.
Joseph Altman injected the rats with a radioactive tracer that attaches to the newly formed DNA strands. Altman's results showed the formation of new neurons in the brain. They were confined to certain areas, such as the hippocampus. At the time, the experiment was not sufficiently appreciated.
It was only in the 1980s that Fernando Nottebohm replicated it. He came to the same conclusion, but was also able to prove that cells can conduct electrical signals. That meant they had to be nerve cells. But again, given the technology of the time, this could not be thoroughly investigated. It wasn't until 1998 that reliable scientific evidence emerged regarding neurogenesis in the adult brain.
Since then, many new discoveries have been made in connection with this process. In 2005, a study showed that exercise helped strengthen neurogenesis, thus proving that neurogenesis can be regulated by external factors. Get to know cannabis in all its glory.
The role of cannabis
With the knowledge that the endocannabinoid system is more sophisticated and complex than we can understand, research continues to expand the frontiers of knowledge about what cannabis can do for humanity.
In a 2007 study, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Complutense University of Madrid said, "Recent findings have demonstrated the presence of a functional endocannabinoid system in neural progenitor cells involved in the regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation."
This leads us to the conclusion that cannabis does indeed affect neurogenesis. When THC binds to CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system, something extraordinary happens. This process stops neuroinflammation and the release of inflammatory chemicals. With this great help, the body can fight neurodegenerative diseases more effectively.
Cannabinoids also act as anti-aging molecules and may trigger regions capable of modulating neural activity. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining balance in our body. When it detects that there is excessive nerve activity, it tries to reduce it.
Effects of cannabis on the brain of the elderly
Knowing that the endocannabinoid system has the power to change much of our brain chemistry, we are beginning to see its potential. Research is increasingly focusing on cannabis and its benefits. A study published in 2017 by Andreas Zimmer and his team at the University of Bonn, Germany, did exactly that. The team examined the effects of THC in young, mature and old mice. They studied how the cannabinoid affects the brain in relation to age. What they found was revolutionary.
Zimmer administered low doses of THC to "older" mice aged 12-18 months. This reversed the age-related decline in cognitive performance. It may be hard to understand, but this is a real Benjamin Button scenario playing out in the brains of these mice. In addition to improved cognitive performance, the researchers also observed increased expression of synaptic marker proteins. These are points of communication between neurons.
Furthermore, increased density of the hippocampal part of the spine was observed. This was demonstrated when older mice injected with THC performed similarly well to young mice without THC. Zimmer and his team reported that the gene transcription profile of the hippocampus was very similar to that of two-month-old mice without THC.
While this might lead many people to think that immortality is one possibility, we are still a long way from that. There's still a lot of research needed. What we know at present is too little to determine what practical implications it might have for humans. The medical community is still researching cannabinoids, terpenes and other molecules that show great results under certain conditions. Let's delve deeper into specific examples.
It is a progressive brain disorder that causes memory loss and can seriously affect a person's ability to function normally. It is the leading cause of death and is expected to triple in frequency over the next 50 years. According to the National Institutes of Health, it affects more than five million people in the USA alone, and over sixty thousand in this country. Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia. It is a frightening disease, but a paper published by authors from the University of California at San Diego and the Salk Institute has made exciting discoveries.
Amyloid beta, a toxic protein, is responsible for the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It accumulates in aging nerve cells in the brain. The full involvement of amyloid beta is still not clear, but the link is. The article studied how THC addresses the presence of this protein in the brain. Lead author David Schubert said, "Although other studies have provided evidence that cannabinoids may be neuroprotective against Alzheimer's disease, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and the accumulation of amyloid beta in nerve cells."
This is a great development in the knowledge of using cannabis to prevent this terrible disease. Hopefully new uses will be discovered in the near future.
How cannabis can help prevent brain damage
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause severe chronic problems due to an external blow to the head. It can also occur by the accumulation of several blows to the skull of lesser intensity. Cannabis has been shown to be effective for many neurological conditions, and this may be one of them.
We have seen that cannabis can reduce inflammation by reducing the presence of amyloid beta. But the neuroprotective antioxidants in the cannabis plant also help with this. A Tel Aviv University study concluded that low doses of THC actually worked against inflammation and swelling in the brains of mice.
Another paper in 2013 further explored the idea that the endocannabinoid system plays a very important role in the brain's ability to repair itself. Even the US government has a patent on the use of CBD as a neuroprotective agent. They admit that cannabis can actually work to reduce the damage caused by head and brain trauma, strokes, and even oxygen deprivation.
There is also evidence that cannabis can even work as a preventative measure. Including a little CBD in your diet is definitely a smart choice, especially if you're into sports or other physically demanding activities. People who participate in these are much more likely to suffer various traumas, and CBD could reduce their negative impact.
There is much evidence of the benefits of cannabis in repairing traumatic brain injury, but it is mostly anecdotal. People who have tried it stand by the claims, but more clinical trials will be needed before a full-fledged medicine can be brought to market.
Now that we know that cannabis does not cause cognitive decline, we can start to reconsider other things we thought we knew. In a larger longitudinal study, Harvard Medical School evaluated the impact of three months of cannabis treatment on executive function. They investigated whether patients using cannabis experience improvements in cognitive function.
Twenty-four patients completed the baseline executive function assessment. The results suggest that patients treated with cannabis showed improved scores on tests of executive functioning. These included the Stroop test and the path drawing test. The results showed increased speed in completing tasks without loss of accuracy.
In addition to the assessment, patients had to complete questionnaires about themselves. These subjects indicated a slight improvement in their clinical condition, better sleep quality, fewer symptoms of depression and even positive changes in several aspects related to quality of life. Patients also reported a significant reduction in the amount of conventional pharmaceuticals consumed. Opioid use decreased by more than 42 %, which is extraordinary.
The information points us in the right direction. It is wonderful to see the increasing number of papers published and studies carried out. We can only hope that they will continue to increase as time goes on and legalisation spreads. Hopefully after reading this article you have more information on what cannabis can do for us as a species, because it definitely has a lot of potential.
"Cannabinoids also act as anti-aging molecules"
"There is much evidence of the benefits of cannabis in repairing traumatic brain injury"