As we age, memory can be impacted. Older adults usually show some signs of cognitive decline, but it varies from person to person. New research however suggests that memory performance could be increased and any memory loss could be reversed in older adults. How? That’s what makes this research different from most. Scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany, together with a team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studied the use of a cannabis active ingredient in older mice. After a series of small doses of THC over a period of time, the older mice had the skills and abilities of much younger mice. While many experts warn of the negative effect THC can have on the brain, in this one mouse model study, the opposite seems to have happened.
The mice used in the study have a fairly short life expectancy at just over two years on average. For them, “old age” can begin as soon as 12 months old. The team at Bonn and Hebrew University investigated the effects of THC, which is the ingredient in marijuana that produces the drug’s sought-after high. The ages of the mice were two months, twelve months and eighteen months. The doses of THC were given over a four-week period. Memory and cognitive levels were measured in all of the mice before the drug was used, to establish a baseline.
At the end of the study period, the mice, who had been broken down into two groups, one getting THC and other a placebo, were tested again. Memory, learning and perhaps most telling, orientation skills and recognition of other mice, were all areas of interest for the researchers. In the mice who did not receive any THC, their memory loss was consistent for their age, beginning to decline at about the 12 month mark. The mice who had been exposed to THC showed very different results. At the age of 12 months, when evidence of age related memory loss was showing up in the control group, the THC mice still had the memory skills of a two month old mouse. When examining the brain tissue of the mice, the findings were supported by the fact that the molecular make up of the older mice treated with THC was strikingly similar to that of control group of younger mice. Professor Andreas Zimmer from the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn stated, “The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals. It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock."
The team hopes that the research can be continued in a human trial. With the mouse model, the team used deliberately low doses of THC, so that there would be no intoxicating effect when it came time to work with humans. The possibility that a controversial substance like THC could be the key to research on reversing age-related cognitive decline is quite significant in any neuroscience research. Check out the video below to learn more about it.