Good news, tweens reading this who hope to one day be fully functioning adults. Bad news for all the rest of us.
Scientists now believe that if you smoked pot before a certain age, you irrevocably damaged your brain.
(Anyone who has read a word I’ve written on this blog thing can guess which group I fall into.)
Researchers at the University of Texas published a study this December in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience that measure how marijuana messes up your brain development.
Called, “Preliminary findings demonstrating latent effects of early adolescent marijuana use onset on cortical architecture,” it’s fancy for “How weed makes you stupid later in life.”
The study scanned the brains of heavy, regular pot smokers with an MRI machine. The stoners were split into two groups. People who started puffing after 16 years old, and people who took their first tugs before their 16 birthday.
What did they find?
We examined cortical thickness, gray/white matter border contrast (GWR) and local gyrification index (LGI) in 42 marijuana (MJ) users.
We compared daily MJ users who were early onset users (<16 years old) versus late onset users (≥16 years old) on measures of cortical morphology that are sensitive to developmental changes. We aimed to characterize both the effect of early onset status on cortical morphology as well as assess for morphological patterns linked to the continued use of MJ after early and late adolescent MJ initiation. We expected early onset users to show a morphological pattern consistent with disruption of early adolescent brain development (e.g., increased cortical thickness, greater gray/white definition of the cortical ribbon via disruptions to adolescent pruning processes) that may be more consistent with indirect impact of MJ of brain development.
Specifically, early onset users showed cortical thickening, enhanced gray/white matter contrast, and decreased gyrification in association with more years of MJ use and current consumption of MJ in grams in frontal and temporal regions – areas that underlie higher order cognition including executive functioning, learning and memory
You know, just those things.
I honestly have no idea what any of that means. But the researchers don’t say it’s nbd.
To conclude, early MJ use was linked to altered neurodevelopmental patterns in brain regions sub-serving higher-order cognitive process. Clinical implications include need for early, targeted intervention. Given that the most robust results were related to interactions between onset age and continued use through emerging adulthood, harm reduction approaches may be effective in moderating adolescent MJ use to levels that are less likely to cause long-term developmental changes.
So, bros, which group do you fall into? Did you smoke pot before 16? Is your brain irrevocably damaged?
I’m gonna guess yes.