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It’s been known for decades that marijuana adversely affects the memory, and can cause serious problems with remembering things, both in the short-term, as well as in the long-term.
What was not known, however, was just how the drug used to do this. Recent research has revealed the possible mechanisms by which marijuana can affect the memory.
This is how memory works…
While the brain is made up of neurons, the brain also contains astroglia, cells that conduct many of the support functions of the brain. While astroglia are not neurons, neurons cannot function without astroglia.
Astroglia conduct nutrition to the neurons, structurally support their position in the matrix of the brain, are regulators of the fluid that the brain is awash in, and also have been proved to be conductors of neurotransmitters like glutamate.
All-in-all, about fifty percent of the cells in your brain as astroglia, and not neurons. This is why evidence that shows that THC (the active ingredient of marijuana) affects astroglia is very disturbing.
What does THC specifically do to astroglia, and how does this affect memory?
Astroglia are part of the system that actually connects neurons into long synaptic chains. If these connections are broken, the synaptic chains themselves, which are the basis of memory, are also broken.
By disrupting these chains, chronic or long-term of marijuana can create problems with remembering, or gaps in memory. As THC also depletes neurotransmitters like glutamate, this may prevent the astroglia, and indeed, the neurons themselves, from functioning correctly, and this lead to further short-term memory complications.
So what we see here is that the action of THC on the brain can affect memory in both the short and the long-term.
It is important to note that these problems with memory are generally with chronic or intense use of marijuana, as happens when a person is suffering from a dependency on a substance. This dependency may be physical, recreational, or psychological. In the case of marijuana, it is most often psychological.
The casual user may suffer short-term memory loss. This would be, for example, a person who uses marijuana perhaps once a fortnight. However, such an occasional user is unlikely to experience long-term problems with memory.
Interesting experiments that explored the connection between marijuana and memory
Some interesting experiments have been conducted based upon this new insight about how marijuana causes memory loss. One crucial study was done upon rats, in which THC was injected into the rats.
The rats that were under the effects of THC had extreme problems not only with memory, but also with rational thought processes. This resulted in rats under the effects of THC being twice as bad at navigating and dealing with mazes than rats that were not under the effects of THC.
Since a maze is a problem, both in rational thinking as well as in memory, this experiment shows how disruptive the effects of THC are upon the mammalian brain. However, this was a study done upon rats. Nevertheless, there are many studies done upon humans that do underline this serious issue.
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