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Research & Development Adverse effects, Medical research

Baby Brain

So relaxed laws don’t necessarily lead to youth marijuana use - but what about those who do choose to partake? To what extent is this cannabis use associated with cerebral cortical thickness development during adolescence? Well, a worrying amount.

In this cohort study, researchers analyzed 1598 magnetic resonance images from 799 participants between 14 and 19 years of age and found that cannabis use was associated with accelerated age-related cortical thinning in predominantly prefrontal regions. Other studies have already indicated that the adolescent brain is particularly sensitive to disruptions in normative fluctuations in endocannabinoid signaling associated with altered neurodevelopment and behavior. (Adolescent-onset cannabis users exhibit greater use-associated problems in adulthood relative to late-onset cannabis users.)

Unfortunately for young users, the spatial pattern of cannabis-related cortical thinning correlates with a positron emission tomography-assessed map of regions rich in cannabinoid 1 receptors. Interestingly, the imaging findings are also consistent with recent animal research on adolescent THC exposure and prefrontal cortical maturation, which found that adolescent THC exposure resulted in distinct proximate and long-term alterations of dendritic architecture.

The researchers of this study hypothesize that the cannabis-related thinning is underpinned by the same neurobiological phenomenon.

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About the Author
Phoebe Harkin
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