Published: Fri, 21 Oct 2005 11:36:54 EST
A new study indicates that the cannabinoid compound in marijuana could be good for the brain, as well as treat mood disorders. A report in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that unlike other drugs such as nicotine and heroin, which suppress the development of brain cells, cannabinoids do not damage neurons, and in fact promote their growth.
In a study by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, rats were given both short-term and longer-term (two-week) treatment with high doses of cannabinoids. The rats undergoing the longer treatment responded to tests in ways that indicated reduced anxiety. One such test involved depriving the rats of food for 48 hours. When food was reintroduced in an unfamiliar environment, the treated rats began eating much more quickly. The researchers note that this was not due to the appetite stimulation associated with marijuana, because the treated and untreated rats had similar eating patterns when they were given food in a familiar setting.
The study also found that treated rats showed less anxiety and spent less time immobile when undergoing stressful swimming and climbing tests, which the researchers interpreted as evidence of an anti-depressant effect. They point to the hippocampus, the part of the brain where the neural growth occurred, which is important in regulation of mood disorders.
Dr. Xia Zhang, who led the study, cautions that these effects will still need to be examined in humans. If the results are the same, Zhang anticipates long-term clinical use of marijuana for anxiety and depression.
this doesn’t surprise me – from what I have read about animal behaviour rats tend to be more cooperative socially (for instance both parents raise the young, unlike the mouse or squirrel) and they are less impulsive than many humans.
I’ve never heard of a rat smashing up its own habitat (apart from gnawing it a bit) or using tools to kill another rat (although apparently both mice and rats use stones and other items as markers and navigational aids!)
so it doesn’t suprise me that rats are more likely to experience the positive aspects of marijuana use. Incidentally vets have warned owners who take cannabis to hide their stash from pet rats – or they will steal it!
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