The results of one of the largest brain imaging studies have found the largest drivers of brain aging. Marijuana use and alcohol abuse are among the top things that lead to brain aging. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) round out the top five factors that drive premature brain aging.
Substance Abuse Research Collaborative
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Google, Amen Clinics, John’s Hopkins University, and the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco, looked at 62,454 brain scans of more than 30,000 people ranging in age from nine months to 105 years. Researchers examined “regional cerebral flow in the brain” and how it’s reduced when a person experiences different disorders.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a psychiatrist and the study’ lead author, stated that the marijuana abuse result was “especially important,’ since we are looking at it as being a harmless substance. He said that the study results should make people pause to think about that.
Marijuana abuse was found to age the brain by 2.8 years, according to the scientists. Alcohol abuse ages it by 0.6 years, ADHD ages it by 1.4 years and bipolar disorder causes the brain to age by 1.6 years. Schizophrenia makes the brain age by an additional four years.
The researchers looked at 128 regions of the brain to determine a patient’s chronological age. When brain scan age didn’t match the patient’s chronological age, the researchers determined accelerated aging had occurred.
Marijuana Causes Brain Aging
The Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas referred to a similar study that compared marijuana use to brain aging and development. It described how people who started using marijuana at the age of 16 (or younger) had different forms of brain development. When people waited until after the age of 16 to start using marijuana, the scientists found the opposite effect; they experienced accelerated brain aging.
Dr. Francesca Filbey from the Center for Brain Health stated that studies show that when someone starts using marijuana results in very different effects.