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Marijuana May Help Fight Brain Damage

Update Date: May 30, 2013 02:36 PM EDT

Marijuana may actually help protect the brain against injury, a new study suggests.

While marijuana is most commonly known as a recreational drug, an increasingly number of studies show that the plant has many therapeutic qualities like relieving pain, insomnia, lack of appetite and other symptoms associated with conditions like cancer and PTSD.

Now a new study reveals that very low doses of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, may protect the brain from long-term cognitive damage in the wake of injury from hypoxia, seizures or toxic drugs.

Lead researcher Professor Yosef Sarne of Tel Aviv University and his team injected brain-injured mice with a low does of THC and found that the animals performed better in learning and memory tests compared to the control group of mice that didn't get the drug.

Researchers found that mice injected with extremely low amounts of THC also had higher amounts of neuroprotective chemicals. The study found that THC administered over a wide window of one to seven days before or one to three days after injury can jumpstart biochemical processes that protect brain cells and preserve cognitive function over time.

Sarne said the study suggests that THC could be used to prevent brain injury or treat brain trauma.

Researchers believe that the THC treatment works by causing minute damage to the brain to build resistance and trigger protective measures in the face of much more severe injury. Sarne notes that the low dosage of THC is crucial to triggering this process without causing too much initial damage.

For the study, the mice were injected with 1,000 to 10,000 less THC than a typical marijuana joint.

The latest findings are published in the journals Behavioural Brain Research and Experimental Brain Research.

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