Schizophrenics who use cannabis appear to have superior memory and prefrontal cortex functioning.
University of Montreal researchers say cannabis use could preserve memory and prefrontal cortex function in patients with schizophrenia
Marijuana may offer a number of benefits to patients with schizophrenia, according to new research out of Canada.
Published online in the journal Psychiatry Research, the study found that heavy marijuana users performed better on memory tasks than those who avoided cannabis. MRI scans also revealed superior brain function in an area responsible for complex thinking and decision making.
Researchers from the University of Montreal studied 14 patients with a dual-diagnosis (cannabis dependence and schizophrenia) and 14 patients with schizophrenia only.
“Our results suggest that emotional memory and prefrontal lobe functioning are preserved in dual-diagnosis patients.”
While patients were evaluated based on emotional memory, the researchers observed no differences in emotional responses between the two groups during resting states.
This led the authors to suggest that the superior performance of cannabis users could reflect a “more general difference” in memory.
Previous studies provide support for their findings – the authors note – including an earlier MRI study that found “less impaired brain functioning” in schizophrenic cannabis users. Likewise, another study suggests that certain symptoms of the disorder could be due to a lack of marijuana-like chemicals in the brain.
And while some still believe that cannabis causes problems when it comes to schizophrenia, the latest study only “adds to the growing literature showing that some key functions (negative symptoms, social skills, cognition) are preserved” in patients who use cannabis, conclude the authors.
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec (FRSQ).