Cannabis Use May Lead to Schizophrenia

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By Jenalyn Villamarin | November 21, 2012 10:52 AM EST

Researchers made remarkable discoveries after studying the effects of cannabis on the brain. Dr. Matthew Jones and his colleagues at the Bristol University in United Kingdom declared that the cannabis effect is the same to some schizophrenia symptoms with an impact on memory and cognition.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, triggers the cannabinoid receptors which are located in several brain areas. In the research, the team calculated the electrical activity from hundreds of neurons in rats after giving a drug similar to THC that also stimulates cannabinoid receptors.

Results showed the delicate cannabis effects on individual brain regions but the brain waves across the brain areas hippocampus and prefrontal cortex were entirely in disorder. These two brain areas are crucial for memory and decision-making therefore the rats were no longer able to precisely find their way through the maze. Both brain areas are also involved in schizophrenia.

In the Journal of Neuroscience, authors wrote that the findings explain the probable mechanism behind the cognitive impairment caused by cannabis. Back in 1970, Dr. Frederick T. Melges and his team named the effect as "temporal disintegration" and further described it as having "difficulty in retaining, coordinating and serially indexing those memories, perceptions and expectations that are relevant to the goal one is pursuing."

"Marijuana abuse is common among sufferers of schizophrenia and recent studies have shown that the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana can induce some symptoms of schizophrenia in healthy volunteers. 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 re-tuning brain activity," Dr. Matthew Jones stated.

"These results are an important step forward in our understanding of how rhythmic activity in the brain underlies thought processes in health and disease," co-author Michal Kucewicz also added. Therefore, researchers conclude: "These tools will continue to shed light on the neural mechanisms of working memory and decision making in health and disease."

Meanwhile, the Cannabidiol compound found in cannabis that stimulates the cannabinoid receptors has shown quite consistent antipsychotic properties in animal tests. Recent studies also specified that Cannabidiol could possibly be as effective as antipsychotics used in treating schizophrenia.

The advantage of Cannabidiol appears similar to unusual antipsychotic drugs. To this point, Cannabidiol is considered a safe and well-tolerated compound. Future studies will require comparing its antipsychotic effects against standard drugs for schizophrenic patients.

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