Cannabis has been legalized for medicinal use in over half of the United States, and as of November, four states and one district have legalized recreational use for adults. This would make sense as to why half of the people in the United States have admitted to trying marijuana at least once. However, very little research has been compiled on the long-term impacts marijuana use has on the human brain due to difficulty gaining research access because marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Now, thanks to a $275,000 grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health, a team at Indiana University will begin studying this topic, and working to close this educational gap.

The study will be conducted by clinical psychologist and Indiana University professor, Brian O’Donnell (pictured left) and Sharlene Newman (pictured right), who is also a professor and the the director of the university’s brain imaging facility.

how does marijuana effect the brain

The team is currently seeking to recruit 90 participants between the ages of 18 and 35. The study will require a control group, so people who have never used marijuana will also be needed for this study. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines will be used to view and compare differences in brain structure, connectivity and function between those who have used marijuana and those who have not. To protect the integrity of studying the impacts of only marijuana use on the brain, all participants must pass a drug screening to weed out anyone using other drugs like cocaine or alcohol. The subjects must also pass a series of cognitive skills tests prior to final selection.

The study is recruiting research participants at this time, and anticipates beginning the research as soon as all participant spots are filled. The announcement of this study comes at the same time that Senator Karen Tillian released a statement that she will introduce a medical marijuana legalization bill as soon as the legislature reconvenes in 2015. At this time, any use of cannabis is illegal in the state of Indiana.

photo credit: Mike Jackson

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