A new study by German and Israeli researchers shows that THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, can improve the memory and learning abilities of old mice.
The data shows low doses of the cannabinoid THC can reverse the decline in cognitive abilities caused by age, although further testing would be needed to determine if the same will hold true in humans.
In the study, low doses of THC were administered over a period of 28 days in 2-month-old mice, year-old mice, old (18 months) mice. Researchers then tested the mice on memory and learning skills, and found that the older mice had their memory and learning abilities restored to similar levels to the younger mice. The THC seemed to affect certain genes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for memory and learning.
England’s Oxford University recently embarked on a $13 million program to “identify new medical therapies through research into the molecular, cellular and systems mechanisms of cannabinoids.”
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration has actually approved several medications derived from THC for testing.
“Old animals remembered as well, learned almost as well, recognized almost as well as young ones,” said neuroscientist Andras Bilkei-Gorzo of the University of Bonn. He is lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine.
THC and cannabis have already been considered effective in the treatment of several neurological conditions including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.