New Study Shows Weed Can Help Teach Old Mice New Tricks

The benefits of cannabis continue to surface as new research is completed.

Old age is a battlefield. You’d think that after years of working and living fulfilling, enriching adult lives that the human body would be rewarded with a youthful, nubile, fully-functional and revitalized bag of bones with which to take on our most golden years. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. As we get older, our bodies only decline despite our best efforts to prevent it. 

Thankfully, there is cannabis. And according to a paper recently published in Nature Medicine, treatment involving low doses of THC––AKA the psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana––shows potential as a means of slowing down or even reversing cognitive decline in the elderly.

But where do mice fit into this picture? And what do they have to do with declining cognitive function in elderly humans?

The paper is based on a joint study conducted by researchers from the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn and LIMES Institute in Bonn, Germany, and the Institute of Dental Sciences at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. In the study, researchers gave young, mature, and old mice low doses of THC. Over 28 days, the researchers put the mixed-age mice through different tests that would determine levels of cognitive function and memory and any corresponding effects potentially indicative of THC-caused improvements or hindrances.

The research team found that “in young mice, THC treatment worsened performance,” which falls in line with the logic that cannabis use may be problematic for developing humans and animals. But that in just 14 days, THC treatments actually “abolished the cognitive deficit” in older mice, and had the senior rodents performing at the same pace as their more youthful counterparts.

“Cannabis preparations and THC are used for medicinal purposes. They have an excellent safety record and do not produce adverse side-effects when administered at a low dose to older individuals,” the study’s authors noted. “Thus, chronic, low-dose treatment with THC or cannabis extracts could be a potential strategy to slow down or even to reverse cognitive decline in the elderly,” they concluded.

To be fair, mice are not men, and in this particular test, each subject mouse was male. So drawing any direct correlation between low doses of THC and improved mental cognition in humans is a bit of a stretch. But it’s not entirely out of the question.