New Study Finds Cannabis May Help Preserve Brain Function As We Age

Photo Credit: Medical Jane

Photo Credit: Medical Jane

In the previous posts, we discussed the growing amount of information suggesting marijuana can help the brain. Now we have another study to add to that list. Scientists at the University of Bonn and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel) have now found away to reverse the process that leads to cognitive decline as we age in mice, a process which makes it harder to learn new things, manage attention, and develop or recall short-term memories. The study, which was published in Nature Medicine, reported low-doses of THC helped restore and even reverse some effects of age-related decline in cognitive performance in mice. It also enhanced the expression of synaptic marker proteins, and increased hippocampal spine density. All of these results create hope in the treatment and prevention of dementia and neurodegenerative disease.  

Researchers chose to experiment on mice because, like humans, their hippocampus and other parts of the brain function similarly in memory and learning. Additionally, they have the same proteins and biological systems, like a similar endocannabinoid system. For the study, mice were grouped by age (2, 12, and 18 months). There was also a control group left untreated. The treated groups were implanted with a device that administered low doses of THC. All groups were tested before and after treatment for cognitive capacities, and the mice underwent a series of behavioral and ability tests to see how they were able to adapt and learn in a changing environment. They were also observed for their ability to recognize others. After treatment, researchers looked at brain tissue and gene activity of the treated mice and found the molecular signature no longer looked like that of an old animal, but instead had a more youthful signature. Professor Andreas Zimmer explained, “The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals. It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock.”

This information has been provided by Medical Jane and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.