Researchers at the University of Bonn and Hebrew University have discovered that low, regular doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the main active ingredients or cannabinoids found in marijuana, may help to keep our brains from 'slowing down' as we get older. Published today in the journal Nature Medicine, the German study revealed that while younger mice suffered a performance drop under the influence of THC, the psychoactive chemical gave older mice a considerable performance boost, even putting them on par with younger mice who'd abstained.
To test the chemical's effect on brains of different ages, researchers put mice that were two months, one year, and 18 months old on a daily regimen of THC over the course of a month. The mice were then tested on their abilities to recognize familiar objects and to navigate a water maze in known and new configurations.
As has been similarly observed with humans, younger animals excelled at the tests when 'sober' but tended to struggle significantly under the influence of THC. "Mature" and "old" mice, on the other hand, struggled with tasks as consistent with their brain ages at first but saw a huge increase in performance with THC infusions that raised their skill level up to young mouse (drug-free) standards and continued for weeks afterward. Meanwhile, The Guardian reported, "None of the mice displayed the strange effects one might expect from doses of THC."
Overall, the results seem to support researchers' belief that the benefits for older mice are a result of stimulating the brain's endocannabinoid system, a biochemical pathway in both mice and human that grows less active over time. The scientists noted, "Together, these results reveal a profound, long-lasting improvement of cognitive performance resulting from a low dose of THC treatment in mature and old animals."
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