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Weed might help old mice learn new stuff

Experiments have revealed that cannabis use might have a positive effect on the memory of older rodents – but with a catch for younger ones

Before you go changing your name to a Mr Rodent, make sure that you read the lines below without being under the influence of any intoxicant –


Phew, now that that’s taken care of, let’s turn our attention to a study conducted by scientists in Germany that have revealed that under the influence of micro-doses of cannabis, older mice might experience a reversal of ageing effects and a revival of learning abilities.

Published online yesterday in Nature journal, the study found that cannabis did not have any positive effect on younger mice of the age range of 2 months old, but significantly improved retention and recognition capabilities in middle-aged and older mice of 12-18 months old. On the contrary, in younger mice the effects were adverse, leading to lower concentration periods and lack of attention.

The science on cannabis use is grey, and so are the ethics of animal experimentation

The Test

This test was conducted by regularly giving control groups of mice a small dose of cannabis, that was too insignificant to get them high. And after a month of this routine, they were put to the test on a maze and with each other. As expected, in the control group that didn’t receive the cannabis, the younger group outperformed the older ones. But, on the other group, the older mice performed as well as their younger counterparts. Although, this could also be because of the younger mice underperforming under over-stimulation from the cannabis. While it is still not clear if the adverse effects are long term, they do provide sufficient cause for further study.

The team will be moving on to human trials in the near future. Post that, it will be much easier to state whether cannabis use does have a positive impact on humans or not. As lead scientist Andreas Zimmerman rightly tells New Scientist, it is very different from smoking pot. A typical micro-dose is of 3mg each day, whereas a standard edible dose for getting stoned is 10mg. So, there’s no reason for stoners to rejoice – for now.

Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee

A former tech-support desk jockey, you can find this individual delving deep into all things tech, fiction and food. Calling his sense of humour merely terrible would be a much better joke than what he usually makes.