Tag Archives: brain research

Marijuana Use, Alcohol Abuse Lead to Accelerated Brain Aging

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

brain agingThe 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.

Researchers Seek Early Identifiers of Addiction in the Brain

gumcresearchTeenage drug use continues to be a major concern in our society. Children are starting to abuse drugs earlier and earlier and now scientists are looking for an explanation for this phenomenon. A recent set of studies were conducted by neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center to try to pinpoint where in the brain the potential for addiction resides.

“What this study is attempting to do is identify the differences in the brains of adolescents who go on to misuse alcohol and other drugs. If we know what is different, we may be able to develop strategies that can prevent the behavior,” explained John VanMeter, one of the leading neuroscientists of the study.

The study consists of four smaller studies all geared towards isolating the part in the brain that is different in those children that abuse drugs.

The first study looks into the area of the brain responsible for emotion, impulsivity, and self-control. Researchers asked parents to fill out a questionnaire regarding the social behaviors of their children and the drug use of their children, additionally the researchers compared those answers to the brain scans of the children. Researchers on the study state that the questionnaire is designed to predict future alcohol abuse.

The second study attempted to look into how impulsive the children were. The third study looked into the amount of sugar the children were ingesting. “We know that, compared to healthy individuals, adults with alcoholism have a stronger preference for sweet tastes, are more impulsive and are less able to delay gratification,” said another one of the study’s authors.

While the study is not complete, it does appear that children who do not have the proper nutrition, who are exceedingly impulsive and who lack self-control are more likely to be at risk for drug and alcohol addictions.

Developing tools to prevent teen drug abuse is paramount in the fight against addiction. Drug abuse continues to be a nationwide epidemic that has shown few signs of letting up. If neuroscientists can isolate what causes a teenager to become more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs then parents, educators, health officials and law enforcement have a better chance at preventing the behavior in the future.