A new study led by Dr. Francesca Filbey, director of Cognitive Neuroscience of Cognitive Research in Addictive Disorders at the Center for Brain Health, which was published in the journal of Neuropsychopharmacology suggests prolonged use of cannabis containing THC may improve oxygen and blood flow to the brain, and therefore reduce the risk of clots that lead to a stroke. The team of researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas looked at the regional brain blood oxygenation and metabolism in 74 chronic cannabis users and 101 non-users over the course of 60 days. The cannabis users reported more than 5,000 usages throughout their life, and reported daily use for at least 60 days before the study. All participants had to abstain from use for 72 hours before the study to ensure the scientists were analyzing chronic effects as opposed to acute effects. Each participant also had their THC metabolite levels measured through urinalysis and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The researchers found longtime cannabis users displayed higher global oxygen extraction fraction and cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen than the non-users. The effects were dose-dependent, and so more cannabis use resulted in increased effects. Additionally, longtime users displayed greater blood flow in the putamen, which is an area of the brain associated with habit formation and reward learning. This effect may be the result of THC, which dilates blood vessels and created additional circulatory pathways. The researchers could not determine whether cannabis directly produced the changes or whether they merely reflected other underlying differences in brain tissue metabolic rate.
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