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How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?

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Updated October 08, 2013

Marijuana Plant

Marijuana Plant

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Question: How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?

Answer: THC affects the nerve cells in the part of the brain where memories are formed. This makes it hard for the user to recall recent events (such as what happened a few minutes ago).

It is hard to learn while high - a working short-term memory is required for learning and performing tasks that call for more than one or two steps.

Among a group of long-time heavy marijuana users in Costa Rica, researchers found that the people had great trouble when asked to recall a short list of words (a standard test of memory). People in that study group also found it very hard to focus their attention on the tests given to them.

 

Marijuana Affects the Brain

As people age, they normally lose nerve cells in a region of the brain that is important for remembering events. Chronic exposure to THC may hasten the age-related loss of these nerve cells. In one study, researchers found that rats exposed to THC every day for 8 months (about 1/3 of their lifespan), showed a loss of brain cells comparable to rats that were twice their age.

It is not known whether a similar effect occurs in humans. Researchers are still learning about the many ways that marijuana could affect the brain.

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