Regular marijuana use among young adults could cause altered brain patterns when these users are exposed to social exclusion according to a new research study by Harvard Medical School researchers. During the study the 42 young adults, with roughly 50% of the study participants consisting of young adults who used marijuana on a regular basis and the other half of the study participants not using the drug at all. The participants played a computerized game while they underwent a brain scan that was non invasive. What the young adults in the study did not realize was that the other players involved in the game of catch on the computer were other computers that had been programmed to exclude the study participant for part of the game. The study results and details have been published in a recent issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.
Regular marijuana use by young adults caused altered brain patterns when the study participants were excluded by the computerized players programmed for the exclusion. Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor and first author of the study Dr. Jodi Gilman explained “Peer groups are one of the most important predictors of young adult marijuana use, and yet we know very little about the neural correlates of social rejection in those who use marijuana. In this study, during peer rejection, young adult marijuana users had reduced activation in the insula, a brain region usually active during social rejection. This may reflect impaired processing of social information in marijuana users. Reduced activity in the insula to peer rejection could indicate that marijuana users are less conscious of social norms, or have reduced capacity to reflect on or react to negative social situations.”