Neurobiological consequences of adolescent cannabis use (vs cannabis propaganda?)

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https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/...052219.php

EXCERPT: About one in five Canadian adolescents uses cannabis (19% of Canadians aged 15-19), and its recent legalization across the country warrants investigation into the consequence of this use on the developing brain. Adolescence is associated with the maturation of cognitive functions, such as working memory, decision-making, and impulsivity control. This is a highly vulnerable period for the development of the brain as it represents a critical period wherein regulatory connection between higher-order regions of the cortex and emotional processing circuits deeper inside the brain are established. It is a period of strong remodeling, making adolescents highly vulnerable to drug-related developmental disturbances. Research presented by Canadian neuroscientists Patricia Conrod, Steven Laviolette, Iris Balodis and Jibran Khokhar at the 2019 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting in Toronto on May 25 featured recent discoveries on the effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain.

Dr. Patricia Conrod, at Université de Montréal, studied the year-to-year changes in alcohol and cannabis use and cognitive function [...] The researchers found substance use to be linked to low cognitive functioning, a finding that could be indicative of an underlying common vulnerability. Cannabis use was linked to impairments in working memory and inhibitory control, which is required for self-control. Cannabis use was also linked to deficits in memory recall and perceptual reasoning. Alcohol use was not linked to impairments in these cognitive functions, suggesting cannabis could have more long-term effects than alcohol.

[...] Dr. Steven Laviolette presented research on the effect the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, on the adolescent brain, in rodent animal models. His team demonstrated that adolescent exposure to THC induces changes in specific a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and in a brain circuit, the mesolimbic pathway, that closely resemble the abnormalities observed in schizophrenia. Furthermore, adolescent THC exposure also caused affective and cognitive abnormalities including deficits in social interactions, memory processing and anxiety regulation. Interestingly, Dr. Laviolette's team found that administration of drugs that restore normal PFC function in early adulthood could reverse the effects of adolescent THC exposure. [...]

Dr. Iris Balodis, from McMaster University, investigates the mechanisms that motivate individuals to act and make decisions that can go against a person's best interest, as seen in people suffering from addiction. [...] Initial findings suggest that there are differences in encoding the value of the reward (money received) and of the effort cost (amount of work done) in individuals addicted to cannabis relative to healthy controls. [...]

Adolescent cannabis use is associated with behavioral changes related to reward and motivation in humans. [...] Dr. Jibran Khokhar, from the University of Guelph, studied the effect of THC exposure in adolescent rats on their adult behaviour. [...] These rats also showed differences in other reward-related behaviors. These behavioural changes were accompanied by changes in the connection between different regions of the brain, including those involved in encoding reward and motivation. [...]

Taken together, the research results presented in this symposium help decipher the links between cannabis use and long-lasting changes in the brain, which underlie changes in behaviour in adolescent humans, and in studies reverse-translating these findings to animal models. Research in humans shows that adolescent cannabis use is widespread, and associated with defects in working memory, self-control and motivation. Similar results were obtained in animal studies, through which researchers were also able to test therapies that can reverse the effects of adolescent cannabis use in adulthood. These findings provide keys to prevent and treat the long term effect of adolescent cannabis use. (MORE - details)
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