Aside from providing consumers with a psychedelic euphoria, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) also appears to reverse the age-related decline in memory and learning in old mice, a new cannabis study found earlier this year.
The journal Nature Medicine has recently published a study conducted by Andras Bilkei-Gorzo and his colleagues at the University of Bonn, Germany. The research investigated how chronic use of THC impacted the cognitive abilities of mice.
The researchers carried out tests with three groups of mice aged two months, 12 months, and 18 months. During the study, the mice were implanted with mini-pumps that released either low doses of THC or placebo solution.
After a period of 28 days, the lab mice performed memory and learning tests. The findings showed that the cannabis-treated mature and old mice had the same results as the untreated young mice, while young mice who were treated with THC performed tests less well. The thing is, when the scientists stimulated the brain of young mice with THC, it was an overdrive for their undeveloped systems.
In one of the tests, the mice were given a choice of interacting with another mouse or an object. The mouse was more interesting to them, and they spent most of the testing time with the animal. When the test was repeated on another day with the choice of two mice, the already known one and a new one, the mice who remembered the animal they met before spent more time with a new mouse.
However, those mice who had problems with memory and learning spent equal time with the two rodents. The untreated young animals had no problems with distinguishing the new mouse, as well as mature and old mice that improved their cognitive abilities with the help of THC.
When studying the brain system involved in the aging process, the scientists used THC as a cannabis chemical compound that interacts with the endocannabinoid system. This brain's system is responsible for learning, memory, and sensations, like pain. The aging process results in the reduction of the activity of the endocannabinoid system, but THC can restore it to the normal level, according to the researchers.
The scientists were impressed with the beneficial effects of THC on age-related memory loss and are going to conduct a human study based on 100 volunteers aged 60 to 70 later this year. Perhaps, starting smoking cannabis at this age will help people prevent problems with cognitive abilities.
However, Dr. Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, told The Independent that the study did not reveal how THC impacted people with dementia, as it focused only on mice and their age-related memory loss. Moreover, the study did not investigate the effects of other cannabinoids that also might impact the endocannabinoid system.