Here’s some counterintuitive news for those who have been hammered all their lives with claims that cannabis causes memory loss.
A new study by scientists at the University of Bonn, written up in the journal Nature Medicine, found that aging mice treated with daily small doses of THC actually experienced a reversal of cognitive decline. That is, they started doing better on cognitive tasks, such as going though a maze.
The researchers foresee potential cannabis-based treatment to fend off dementia.
“If we can rejuvenate the brain so that everybody gets five to 10 more years without needing extra care, then that is more than we could have imagined,” said study leader Andras Bilkei-Gorzo.
The bad news for stoners is that the study found that the THC applications had the reverse effect in young mice—hindering their cognitive capabilities.
But it will be interesting to see what kind of media splash this makes. So far, the study has been written up in the Guardian (itself slightly “alternative”), but has mostly been covered by niche sites like Medical XPress and (with lots of caveats about how mice aren’t people) Popular Science.
Here’s a little contrast.
In February 2016, when a study from researchers at Switzerland’s University of Lausanne found a link between years of daily cannabis use and middle-age decline in short-term memory (as measured in verbal skills), it was written up in the Washington Post. We’ll see if WaPo now covers the new findings.
And in January 2016, University College London researchers found no impact of cannabis on the IQ of young users. The IQs of young cannabis users and non-users was virtually identical. These findings were noted in Science magazine, but failed to win much mainstream coverage.
Back in July 2011, Time magazine did allow a guest editorial by Maia Szalavitz on a study that followed 2,000 Australians through young adulthood, finding no difference in cognitive abilities between cannabis users and non-users.
The double standard in what kind of findings win headlines is pretty obvious. We do hope research that could improve the lives of our elderly will not be bottlenecked by media-fed prejudices.