07 Nov Marijuana Causes “Chaos” in Brain Similar to Schizophrenia
Researchers in Great Britain found that marijuana causes changes in the brains of rats that mimic schizophrenia.
Researchers at the University of Bristol administered a drug similar to the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana to hundreds of rats, and then used state-of-the-art technology to measure electrical activity in the neurons of their brains. The drug changed the coordination of brain waves across the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. These brain structures are involved in memory and decision-making, as well as schizophrenia. The rats under the influence of the drug were unable to navigate around a maze the way normal rats can.
Dr. Matthew Jones, from the University’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology, said that the drug caused disrupted coordination, and compared it to two sections of an orchestra playing out of sync. Previous research has shown that heavy marijuana use can cause problems in concentration and memory.
“Marijuana abuse is common among sufferers of schizophrenia and recent studies have shown that the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana can induce some symptoms of schizophrenia in healthy volunteers,” Dr. Jones said. “These findings are therefore important for our understanding of psychiatric diseases, which may arise as a consequence of ‘disorchestrated brains’ and could be treated by ‘retuning’ brain activity.”
The study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.
No one really understands the link between schizophrenia and marijuana. A 2007 review of the scientific literature found that those who smoke marijuana have twice the risk for schizophrenia, and those who have schizophrenia are twice as likely to smoke the drug.
Dr. Serge Sevy, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, found that 75% of the 100 people in his study with schizophrenia had used marijuana for at least two years before they were diagnosed with this mental illness. This could mean that marijuana causes schizophrenia, but there is a problem with that theory. Although marijuana use has increased in the United States since the 1940s, the rate of schizophrenia has remained the same.
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