Does cannabis make the brain younger again?
In advanced age, many people break down mentally. The balance between the so-called age-typical degradation and stabilizing processes determines the exact course of individual aging. Researchers have now found that low-dose THC appears to protect against mental breakdown.
In their investigation, the scientists at the University Hospital Bonn found that THC helps against mental degradation. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Nature Medicine".
Mental degradation in old age is reduced by THC
In experiments on mice, the researchers found that the mental degradation typical of old age can be reduced by low-dose THC. The so-called endocannabinoid system is one of the stabilizing processes that have a strong impact on individual aging. This system bears its name because the switches also react to substances contained in cannabis (THC), the researchers explain. The so-called system switches (CB receptors) are normally activated with the help of the body's own substances similar to THC. Such activation affects the typical processes of aging.
Effects of age on the brain
However, the system becomes more and more inactive with increasing age. This has already been found in experiments on animals. In old age, the brain cells produce fewer new CB receptors. The receptors also react weaker to the endocannabinoids that they are supposed to activate. The researchers also found that fewer of the activating substances are present in older animals. The receptor switches are therefore produced less frequently, they react less well and they are also used less frequently. Previous studies have shown that mice that were unable to produce a special CB receptor showed a greater loss of brain cells in old age. In addition, these mice also showed an earlier reduction in learning and memory, the authors explain.
Can THC slow mental aging?
If a decreased activity of CB1 accelerates aging, can a permanently activated receptor slow down mental aging? To achieve this, an increased concentration of activating substances, such as THC, could be helpful.
Tests identify various factors under the influence of THC
In their study, the scientists examined whether regular intake of THC can help against the mental symptoms of aging. For this purpose, the experts at the University Hospital Bonn carried out various behavioral tests, which were carried out during and after treatment with THC. The tests identified factors such as an interest in something new, curiosity and general speed.
THC-treated mice show improved learning performance
If mental aging was even faster in the previous examination, treatment with THC had exactly the opposite effect. In mice treated with THC, learning performance improved again despite age. The scientists were able to observe that the normal degradation of thinking can be partially reversed. This solid effect was also accompanied by some measurable changes in the brain.
Effects of THC on the learning center of the brain
In the so-called hippocampus (the learning center of the brain), the mice treated with THC showed greater activity and higher growth of nerve cell connections. These so-called learning cells were more often connected to each other, so to speak. This can be seen as a sign of a learning process and memory formation, the experts explain. In the older mice in the experiment, brain activity tapered to such an extent that it resembled the activity that normally occurs only in young mice.
Will cannabis soon be used to reduce the mental effects of aging?
By reactivating the so-called CB1 receptors in the brain, which are slowed down by aging, it is apparently possible to achieve an effective treatment against mental degradation in old age. This effect was observed at least in mice when the animals received a low dose of THC. So it is possible that medical cannabis will be used in the future to reduce the mental effects of aging. So far, medical cannabis has mainly been used against pain or loss of appetite in severe illnesses. (as)