Is cannabis disrupting cognitive processes when the brain should be resting? That’s the question researchers from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas are currently addressing. The study shows that cannabis users experience increased cortical activation during the brain’s resting state when compared with nonusers. This results in ‘noisy brain’, or the disruption of cognitive processes, say researchers.
Dr. Shikha Prashad, the study’s lead author and a research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth, says the study is “the first to characterize global cortical activation and both inter- and intrahemispheric functional connectivity during resting state in cannabis users.”
Basically, further research on cannabis and resting states, like sleep.
The researchers collected electroencephalogram (EEG) data from 38 participants in two groups: 17 cannabis users and 21 nonusers. Scientists measured the synchronization of brain waves to evaluate the strength of the brain signals in different cortical regions.
The results demonstrated that cannabis users exhibited increased activation of most of the different types of brain waves, compared to nonusers. Similar results have been found in other studies of heroin-, alcohol- and cocaine-dependent users.
Changes in communication between the brain’s cortical areas could also be related to cognitive impairments correlated with cannabis use. Prashad said this could signify that participants had difficulty inhibiting neural activity that has been observed in previous studies, which would cause them to exert more effort as they attempted to stop doing certain tasks.
Whether or not cannabis helps with sleep requires more large-scale research, as current studies are often at odds.
A 2016 study found that daily cannabis use had a negative impact on sleep quality in young adults who had no reported sleeping difficulties.
Meanwhile, another study using rodents only, found that CBD could induce a deeper sleep state in rats that researchers had subjected to anxiety.
But an earlier study in humans found that CBD produced a more alert state, while THC acted as a sedative.
See how it can all get pretty confusing? Much of the current support for cannabis as an aid to sleep is anecdotal, including what strains might help with sweet slumber.
The results from this newest study could contribute to understanding cognitive impairments. However, the findings of BrainHealth’s research ultimately conclude that further studies are needed.