Cannabis Produces Transient Psychosis-Like Effects

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The primary active ingredient of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, increases random neural activity — termed “neural noise” — in the brains of healthy humans, according to research published in Biological Psychiatry.

This may explain the transient psychosis-like effects similar to those observed in schizophrenia caused by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in previous studies.

"The dose-dependent and strong positive relationship between [THC and psychosis-like effects] suggest[s] that the psychosis-like effects of cannabis may be related to neural noise which disrupts the brain’s normal information processing," said Jose Cortes-Briones, PhD, a postdoctoral associate in psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.

The researchers studied how THC affected electrical brain activity in 24 participants in a 3-day study during which they received 2 doses of intravenous THC or placebo.

If the link between neural noise and psychosis is confirmed, this could help researchers get closer to understanding the biology behind some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

"This interesting study suggests a commonality between the effects on the brain of the major active ingredient in marijuana and symptoms of schizophrenia," said John Krystal, MD, editor of Biological Psychiatry. "The impairment of cortical function by [THC] could underlie some of the cognitive effects of marijuana.

"Not only does this finding aid our understanding of the processes underlying psychosis, it underscores an important concern in the debate surrounding medical and legalized access to marijuana."

Cannabis Produces Transient Psychosis-Like Effects
If the link between neural noise and psychosis is confirmed, it could help researchers have a better understanding of schizophrenia symptoms.

Several studies have demonstrated that the primary active constituent of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol induces transient psychosis-like effects in healthy subjects similar to those observed in schizophrenia. However, the mechanisms underlying these effects are not clear.

A new study reports that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol increases random neural activity, termed neural noise, in the brains of healthy human subjects. The findings suggest that increased neural noise may play a role in the psychosis-like effects of cannabis.

The investigators studied the effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolon electrical brain activity in 24 human subjects who participated in a three-day study during which they received two doses of intravenous delta-9-THC or placebo in a double-blind, randomized, cross-over, and counterbalanced design.

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