Can marijuana halt brain damage?
Can marijuana really help protect your brain? According to researchers from Tel Aviv University, very low doses of THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – may have neuroprotective properties. The researchers found that small amounts of THC can protect the brain from long-term cognitive damage associated with seizures, toxic drugs or hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain). These conditions can have a range of consequences, from mild cognitive effects to severe neurological damage.
For the study, scientists gave extremely low doses of THC to mice—about 1,000 to 10,000 times less THC than that in a conventional marijuana cigarette. One group received the treatment between one and seven days before a brain injury and one to three days after the injury. The second group received no THC treatments. After a period of three to seven weeks following the injuries, the THC groups performed better in behavioral tests measuring learning and memory than the control group.
The results suggests that low-dosage THC treatments cause minor damage which can jumpstart biochemical processes that protect brain cells and preserve cognitive function. The researchers believe this treatment could be used both after a brain injury or a protection against a possible loss of oxygen flow to the brain. For example, cardiopulmonary heart-lung machines used in open heart surgery carry the risk of interrupting the blood supply to the brain, and the drug can be delivered beforehand as a preventive measure, according to the researchers. Or it could be used for patients at frequent risk of brain injury, such as epileptics.