Diffusion tensor imaging, a newly developed magnetic resonance imaging technique, could enable researchers to gain a better understanding of the effects of cannabis on the brain.
In a preliminary study published today in the open access journal Harm Reduction Journal, researchers used diffusion tensor imaging to compare the brain tissue of young people who had used cannabis moderately as teenagers and young people who had not. The researchers failed to find any indication that damage to the developing adolescent brain occurred.
Lynn DeLisi and colleagues from the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research and New York University School of Medicine used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to scan the brain of 10 young people who had smoked cannabis during adolescence. The participants were between 17 and 30 years old, they had smoked at least two to three times a week for one or more years during adolescence and had no personal or family history of mental health problems. They were matched for sex, age and social class of parents with 10 controls who had not smoked cannabis regularly as teenagers.
DTI is a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that enables a detailed look at the organisation of nerves in the brain and the measurement of brain volume.
DeLisi and her colleagues found no significant differences in brain integrity and brain volume between cannabis smokers and non-smokers. This preliminary study suggests that moderate cannabis use has no direct adverse effects on brain structure and integrity. The authors warn however, that more research is necessary, both in a larger group of people and to see the effects of heavier use.