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Marijuana may change the decision-making part of teen brains

A new rat study hints at damage during adolescence

By
4:05pm, November 7, 2018
cannabis plant

POT PROBLEM  After exposure to a marijuana-like drug in adolescence, male rats had changes in structures that surround and help stabilize certain nerve cells.

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SAN DIEGO — Marijuana use during teenage years may change the brain in key decision-making areas, a study in rats suggests.

“Adolescence is a dangerous time to be insulting the brain, particularly with drugs of abuse,” study coauthor Eliza Jacobs-Brichford said November 7 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Jacobs-Brichford and colleagues gave adolescent male and female rats a marijuana-like compound. Afterward, the researchers found changes in parts of the brain involved in making decisions.

Normally, many of the nerve cells there are surrounded by rigid structures called perineuronal nets, sturdy webs that help stabilize connections between nerve cells. But in male rats that had been exposed to the marijuana-like compound in adolescence, fewer of these nerve cells, which help put the brakes on other cells’ activity, were covered by nets. Drug exposure didn’t seem to affect the nets in female rats.

“Males look more susceptible to these drugs,” said Jacobs-Brichford, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Citations

E. Jacobs-Brichford et al. Effects of adolescent WIN exposure on perineuronal net emergence in PFC. Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, San Diego, November 7, 2018.

Further Reading

L. Sanders. Legalization trend forces review of marijuana’s dangersScience News. Vol. 185, June 14, 2014, p. 16.

L. Sanders. Young people’s memories improved when they stopped using marijuana. Science News Online, October 30, 2018.

A. Cunningham. Here’s how many U.S. kids are vaping marijuana. Science News Online, September 17, 2018.

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