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Paranoid or Placid? Scans Show Pot's Effect on Brain
Date:1/6/2012

containing 10 milligrams (mg) of the marijuana ingredient THC (deemed to be a "modest" dose); another containing 600 mg of CBD; and a third filled with flour.

Testing was conducted in a highly controlled and monitored environment, in which no marijuana was actually smoked.

The fMRI scans (which track brain activity in real time) were conducted one and two hours after capsule administration. During the scans, the men engaged in simple visual-cognition tasks (such as pressing buttons to reflect the direction of a series of flashing arrows). Psychopathological assessments were conducted throughout the brain imaging process.

The team found that THC and CBD appeared to affect the brain in different and opposite ways.

Ingesting THC brought about irregular activity in two regions of the brain (the striatum and the lateral prefrontal cortex) that are key to the way people perceive their surroundings. THC seemed to boost the brain's responses to otherwise insignificant stimuli, while reducing response to what would typically be seen as significant or salient.

In other words, under the influence of THC, healthy individuals might give far more importance to details in their environment than they would have without the chemical in their brain.

THC also prompted a significant uptick in paranoid and delusional thinking, the authors said, and the more that "normal" brain responses were set off-kilter, the more severe the paranoid or even psychotic reaction.

The effect of the other main pot ingredient, CBD, was nearly the opposite, however.

Ingesting the CBD capsule appeared to prompt brain activity linked to appropriate responses to significant stimuli in the environment, the team reported.

According to Bhattacharyya, this suggests that, on balance, marijuana may play both a good and bad role in the context of psychosis.

The study also suggests that CBD, at least, may "have potential use for the treatment of psy
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