Researchers at the University of Bonn and Hebrew University recently published the results of a study concerning the effects of active ingredients of marijuana on aging. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the best known active ingredients in marijuana, could improve brain performance as we age while also protecting it from some of the damages of aging.
The study compared the performance of younger and older mice over a period of one month. The mice, ages two months, 12 months, and 18 months were tested for recognition of familiar objects and maze navigation. The younger mice had higher rates of performance without the THC, whereas the older mice actually performed better after doses of THC. The older mice performed so well with THC that they were on par with the results of the younger mice without the THC.
In other words, low doses of THC were able to reverse some of the cognitive signs of aging.
The study didn’t just measure performance, either. Testing revealed that low doses of THC restored the hippocampal gene transcription patterns and spine density.
As mice and humans age, the endocannaboid system (ECS) that “modulates the physiological processes underlying aging” slows down. This can results in slower cognitive processing. But, THC enhanced the system and improved performance.
The mice were tested before and after they were given THC. At two months old, the mice performed better before being given doses of THC. The mice who were 12 months and 18 months old performed poorly before being given THC. However, after all the groups were given low doses of THC, the abilities of the younger mice deteriorated while the older mice improved. There was so much improvement that the older mice had results which were comparable to the younger mice in the their pre-THC state.
Later this year, similar tests will be conducted on humans. For now, it would appear that retirement really is the Golden Age where methods of relaxation can even improve cognitive abilities.