08.24.2016
wellness

THC Makes Lab Rats Smarter, Pissing Off Canadian Researchers

Canadian rodents have learned to chill in the face of science.

University of British Columbia behavioral researchers released a report Tuesday in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience that indicates the scientists have been outwitted by 29 crafty rats.

The Canadian academics had trained the 29 rodents to "exert cognitive effort" on a tiered reward system. The rats were given the option of completing a simple task or a task that required greater brain engagement. For completion of the difficult task, the rats were rewarded with two lumps of sugar. Completing the simple task paid off in only one sugar lump.

Once the rats were comfortable with this workday routine, Mason Silveira, a PhD candidate in psychology, and Associate Professor Catharine Winstanley smoked the rats out—or used some other method to administer doses of THC and CBD. What Silveira and Winstanley found out next was totally misinterpreted by them.

From the Guardian:

“When rats were given THC, we found that they were less likely to exert the mental energy needed to do more difficult tasks,” Silveira said.
“Though they were less likely to do these more difficult tasks, they were still able to. There’s this distinction between THC’s ability to affect your cognition versus your willingness to actually use your cognitive abilities.”

Silveria and Winstanley seem to be stuck on the notion that the rats' elevated decision to settle for one lump of sugar and reject the artificially imposed imperatives to accumulate more and more sugar lumps indicates some impairment in the animals. The Canadian academics fail to consider the possibility that under the influence of marijuana, the rodents have made a collective decision to do what is best for the rats. Why, really, should the rats be jumping through hoops, figuratively speaking, for a pair of ambitious academics? 

“They all got cognitively lazier,” complains Silveria.

Image via Wikipedia

One man's cognitive laziness is another's subversive will to passively resist. The rats, clearly, smartened up after ingesting the THC. The researchers are adamant to point out that the rats have not lost their ability to perform the more difficult task. They just don’t want to. Somehow, the researchers conclude that opt-out means the rodents are lazier. But, in essence, the weed has enlightened the rats to the possibility of declining to jump through hoops just to please some nerd playing God in a laboratory.

"I think that will resonate with anyone who’s either experimented with marijuana or maybe knows people who are using it," says Winstanley, lamenting the animals’ "impaired" willingness to exert cognitive effort. "Thinking about how essential that is for people to fulfill their potential and economic success, I think it is a bit worrying. Hopefully we can try and understand exactly what the biological underpinnings of that effect are and maybe come up with a way to reverse it."

Or maybe science would be better served by coming up with a way to enhance those biological underpinnings. We can all cite plenty of human rats who the world would be better off if these rats exerted less ambition to accumulate more and more sugar lumps.

As for the rest of us, if THC helps us to follow the lead of these 29 revolutionary rodents and hop off the gerbil wheel, leaving the rat race to the rats who deserve it, then we will be better people for it, just like those 29 Canadian rats are.


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