11.03.2016
wellness

Harvard Study: Smoking Weed Improves Brain Functions

Cognitive function goes better with pot.

People are forever wandering onto KINDLAND territory and wondering out loud: What makes you people so goddamn smart?

Well, scientific findings recently published in Frontiers in Pharmacology may have cleared up that mystery once and for all. Preliminary investigations by medical researchers from McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Tufts University indicate that pot use improves cognitive performance.

Cognitive performance, no need to tell you, is “our ability to utilize the knowledge acquired by mental processes in our brains.” In other words, perform tasks that require thinking, as in to be so goddamn smart.

The behavioral scientists behind the work summarized in “Splendor in the Grass? A Pilot Study Assessing the Impact of Medical Marijuana on Executive Function” tracked 24 certified medical-marijuana patients over a three-month dosing period. The patients were repeatedly measured for cognitive proficiency through challenges to the intelligence that included the Stroop Color Word Test and Trail Making Test.

Staci Gruber, PhD, director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program at McLean Hospital—Harvard Medical School’s largest psychiatric affiliate—is the lead “Splendor in the Grass?” researcher. Her initial report is twofold positive. For one thing, weed treatment led to patients breezing through an array of brainteasers with enhanced speed and accuracy.

From a McLean Hospital report:

“After three months of medical marijuana treatment, patients actually performed better, in terms of their ability to perform certain cognitive tasks, specifically those mediated by the frontal cortex,” explained Gruber.
Study participants also reported improvements in their specific clinical conditions, sleep, and overall health as well as a decreased use of conventional medications, particularly opiates.
“We saw a 42 percent reduction in opioid use,” reported Gruber. “This is significant, particularly for those of us in Massachusetts and other areas of the country where the opioid epidemic is ravaging so many. This preliminary finding certainly warrants deeper and broader investigation.”

In less than a week, electorates in five states (one of them being Massachusetts) have the opportunity to vote themselves into the legal-marijuana club. If just one of these states, California for instance, opts for legal adult use, literally millions more Americans will be granted the option to use marijuana without fear of police intervention. Perhaps not everyone who picks up a joint in this newly normalized landscape will become as intelligent as the Kindland smarties.

But you don’t need to be a brilliant visionary to recognize that the preliminary findings from McLean Hospital’s pilot study assessing the favorable impacts of cannabis on adult human brains demand further exploration. Deeper, broader investigations into marijuana’s ability to improve our mental functioning and reduce our susceptibility to opioid dependence should be happening sooner than later.

In that regard, “Splendor in the Grass?” lead Staci Gruber appears to be every bit as invested in the public wellbeing as she is smart in her approach to unraveling and establishing best marijuana practices.

“People are going to use it,” she concludes. “It’s up to us to figure out the very best and safest ways in which they can do that.”

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