Professor of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn in Germany, Andreas Zimmer and his team have found that the main compound in marijuana can help increase memory and learning capacity.
Zimmer and his team have conducted experiments to test the effects Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has on cognitive functions. THC is the principal mind-altering ingredient found in cannabis. It acts much like the cannabinoid chemicals naturally made by the body.
THC connects to cannabinoid receptors within certain areas of the brain, where it then activates them and affects a person’s memory, pleasure, movements, thinking, concentration, coordination, and sensory and time perception.
In order to conduct their studies, researchers looked at 17 young mice (two months), 24 mature mice (one year) and 29 old mice (18 months). While all were implanted with small pumps, only half of the mice in each age group contained THC. The other half contained a control substance, without THC.
Researchers conducted numerous behavioural experiments to test the cognitive skills of the mice. For one particular experiment, scientists placed the mice in a pool of water with a hidden platform that allowed the rodents to escape once they found it.
Results found that the control group of mature and old mice took longer to climb out than the young mice. However, the mice (old and mature) exposed to THC learnt the task quicker. It was also revealed that the improvement of memory in the THC mice was to such an extent that some aspects of their memory were as good as those of young mice.
Much like previous research that has shown the detrimental effects that THC may have on cognition in young people and animals, the research conducted by Zimmer and his team found that the THC seemed to worsen the performance of younger mice.
While the researchers have yet to determine if THC could help improve memory ageing humans, they are planning more tests, according to Zimmerman.