Smoking Marijuana Before And After Age 16 Induces Arrested Brain Development

Posted: Feb 16 2016, 5:53am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Teens smoking marijuana
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Researchers from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas based in Dallas have found a relationship between the age at which teenagers start smoking marijuana and cognitive brain decline, finding that starting to smoke cannabis before age 16 leads to arrested brain development and commencing smoking after age 16 leads to accelerated brain aging.

In findings published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, the researchers find that early smoking impacts negatively on the prefrontal cortex which is a section of the brain associated with complex thinking, reasoning, and judgment.

Francesca Filbey, principal investigator and Bert Moore Chair of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the Center for BrainHealth pointed out that changes that occur in the brain of adolescents are very complex, and the time or age of initiating marijuana use impacts on brain changes, adding that “not only did age of use impact the brain changes but the amount of cannabis used also influenced the extent of altered brain maturation.”

The brains of 42 heavy marijuana smokers were analyzed via MRI, and the researchers categorized 20 users as early starters who began cannabis use at a mean age of 13.18, and 22 participants grouped as later users who had a mean age of 16.9. All the participants in the study confessed to starting cannabis use during adolescence and continuing through adulthood, using the substance at least once per week.

“In the early onset group, we found that how many times an individual uses and the amount of marijuana used strongly relates to the degree to which brain development does not follow the normal pruning pattern. The effects observed were above and beyond effects related to alcohol use and age. These findings are in line with the current literature that suggests that cannabis use during adolescence can have long-term consequences,” said Filbey.

In future researchers, Filbey and her team will be exploring the cognitive and behavioral changes linked to structural brain change; but for now, she thinks more studies are needed to determine the causal link between brain changes and marijuana use.

This study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/52" rel="author">Charles I. Omedo</a>
Charles is covering the latest discoveries in science and health as well as new developments in technology. He is the Chief Editor or Intel-News.




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