Hooray: Cannabis Doesn't Shrink Brain, Study Finds
Is cannabis to blame for brain shrinkage? It is a fear of many scientists and health professionals. According to new research, no.
When it comes to dispelling the myths surrounding cannabis, campaigners are well aware that they are fighting an uphill battle. It doesn’t help when the media takes the results of scientific studies out of context and report on negative correlations as if they are causation, causing new myths to spring up. One such myth is that cannabis use shrinks the brain, which came about thanks to neuroimaging research that found a correlation between cannabis use and certain areas of the brain being smaller than normal.
IT IS ALL ABOUT GENETICS
This research is a prime example of how scientific findings can be taken out of hand, but fortunately, new research has taken the field of enquiry one step further, disproving the initial “cannabis causes brain shrinkage.”
This new research takes this correlation and tries to find out what is behind it. To do so, they recruited 483 participants, all of whom were siblings with at least one other participant, sometimes even being twins. The participants were divided into three groups, the first was made up of siblings who all used marijuana, the second contained groups of siblings where at least one sibling used marijuana and one didn’t, and the last was made up of siblings who had never used marijuana at all.
By comparing brain images of all siblings in all groups, it was concluded that cannabis was not responsible for the brain shrinkage outlined in previous research, and in fact shared genetic factors were responsible. Basically, they compared all the scans and found that when there was shrinkage, it was also found in the sibling who didn’t use cannabis. It strongly suggests that either genetic or environmental factors are to blame, not cannabis use.
While this is great news, much like the very first study that found a correlation between cannabis use and brain shrinkage, this study also needs verification and testing on a long-term, larger scale. The thing is though, we are slowly moving forward, making our way to the answers we seek, and if this research is to be used as an indicator, cannabis use may not be the problem many fear it to be. Only time will tell.
BOOSTING THE BRAIN: WEED AND NEW BRAIN CELL GROWTH
If anything, research suggests that cannabis protects and grows the brain. There are ample research papers all concluding cannabis use causes neurogenesis – the creation of new brain cells. For example, back in 2005, research found that cannabinoids promoted new cell growth in the hippocampus, reducing anxiety and depression.
Conversely, tobacco, which is legal across the globe, has been scientifically found to thin the cortex of the brain – faster than would normally happen with age. Yet this is legal? Our society is very messed up; it’s like our governments operate with an Allice in Wonderland ideology, instead of looking at the cold, hard facts.