Research published by scientists from the University of Waterloo in Canada set out to determine the effects of prenatal drug exposure on vision of preschool children. They determined methamphetamine exposure does not affect visual function, motion perception was impaired by prenatal alcohol, but prenatal cannabis improved motion perception in children.
They caution their finding that prenatal exposure to cannabis improves motion perception does not mean it is safe, and other research shows cannabis can negatively impact brain formation in new fetuses.
While the medical community is familiar with the effects prenatal drug exposure has on motor and cognitive development, research was lacking on their effect on the visual brain areas. To investigate this they examined the visual processing abilities of 4 year-old children proven to have been exposed to cannabis, alcohol, methamphetamines or nicotine in the womb, as well as a group with no exposure as a control.
They discovered alcohol impaired motion perception, but if a mother had consumed both cannabis and alcohol, motion perception remained similar to controls. Interestingly, babies prenatally exposed to just cannabis had better motion perception than even controls with no other drug exposure. Prenatal exposure to methamphetamine had no impact on global motion perception.
The findings don’t implicate that pregnant women should smoke weed to make super-sighted babies; cannabis may of other ill effects on growing fetuses. The small, though measureable, improvement in motion perception does not warrant it. Once research on prenatal exposure develops more solid conclusions, health officials may contemplate approving cannabinoid drugs for the purpose of counteracting some of the negative effects of prenatal alcohol exposure.
This new study opens another potential application for medical cannabis, another example of how cannabis can counteract at least some of the devastating effects that legal alcohol has on society. Rescheduling cannabis to a less restrictive tier will allow researchers to answer some of the public health questions on legislators’ minds regarding the safety of the plant, that will help predict the effects of full-scale legalization.