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The Effects of Marijuana on Working Human Memory
Investigating the effect of Marijuana use on the working memory of human beings appears very challenging. Several studies have in the past aimed to explain the short-term and long-term effects of Marijuana use on memory function among humans, in which findings have often remained equivocal and pointing to a pattern of interacting factors on the association among Marijuana as well as human working memory. Many other consistent findings have also been reported in regard to the acute impairments, which are induced through the use of Marijuana. In addition, in the long-term, these impairments appear very likely to manifest and might also persist following abstinence. However, future epidemiological as well as experimental studies, which consider individual differences are very necessary in order to clarify the degree as well as mechanisms through which Marijuana-induced memory issues occur. Future studies in this area would also be highly important in explaining the underlying neurobiological mechanisms as well.
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Marijuana is an illicit drug that is commonly referred to as Cannabis Sativa. This drug is widely used by many people throughout the world for various reasons. Moreover, the use or utilization of this drug often starts from teenage age for majority of the individuals who use it. Marijuana contains many ingredients, in fact it is approximated that it contains a total of 600 ingredients, including more than 60 various cannabinoids, which are identified with their potential therapeutic as well as toxic effects. In particular, a proactive component known as Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol found in Marijuana is thought to be responsible for both the acute as well as adverse effects of Marijuana use on the different cognitive functions, such as the human memory (Matochik et al, 2005).
It is believed that Marijuana is used more when compared with both alcohol and tobacco. The acute effect of this drug includes working memory. Furthermore, the continued use of Marijuana induces acute deficits in terms of motor skills, mathematical abilities, as well as alterations in time perceptions among various groups of people. Marijuana causes long-lasting changes in the working memory. In particular, many of the studies on long-term effects of Marijuana on human working memory have found proof of gross abnormalities and cognitive impairments, especially in the domain of working memory (Matochik et al, 2005).
When studying the effects of Marijuana on the memory function, it is also of critical essence to be mindful that the human memory is not basically a unitary measurable concept, instead, it is a construct which considers a number of various specializations as well as processes that are being involved, all which are localized in overlapping, yet different regions of the human brain. Memory refers to the temporal classification that differentiates among sensory memory, short-term memory, as well as long-term memory in addition to including the processes of encoding (which entails receiving as well as processing information), followed by storage (which entails the creation of a permanent record of all the encoded information), and lastly, the recall (which entails retrieving and recollecting the information encoded).
The human memory is also subdivided depending on its content. The procedural or implicit memory is the storage of elements that are inaccessible to the consciousness, including memory of skills such as playing a piano. Majority of the memory tests that are utilized in analyzing the effects of Marijuana assesses the explicit memory system, which basically demands the recollection of events as well as facts. However, working memory is defined as the temporary storage as well as manipulation of the episodic information (Matochik et al, 2005).
Thus, the effects of the various cannabinoids on the working memory have been studied by directly administering Marijuana or its various ingredients in efforts to determine its potential therapeutic as well as adverse effects. Therefore, this study endeavors to study and present the effects that marijuana posse to the human memory for its users.
Marijuana has historically been regarded as a relatively risk-free drug. However, the period of onset of Marijuana use is significantly decreasing and youths start using Marijuana at an earlier age, a period when majority of these teens are likely to be more vulnerable to the drug’s impairing effects. Moreover, considering the effect of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the working memory possesses serious concerns. In addition, given the possibility of increasing potent forms of Marijuana in the streets with higher Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol content may present a particular risk with its adverse cognitive impairments.
Both the long-term as well as short-term problems are among the frequently self-reported effects of Marijuana use by many of the individuals who use the drug. The idea that marijuana impairs short-term memory has become highly ingrained in the general community as well as within the popular culture and literature. Moreover, even when an idea exist that marijuana is a relatively benign substance, short-term consequences are always the first things that come into the mind of people. However, according to Matochik et al (2005) memory problems often define the caricatured as well as prototypical images of the chronic marijuana users. Therefore, within the broad literature, the impairment of human memory is often cited in relation to marijuana use. In fact, over the years, since marijuana arose to become the widely used illegal substance in the developed world, the general human memory function has been studied in acute administration on several studies of marijuana to human being, and in some studies of long-term marijuana use. A number of neurobiological studies have uncovered the mechanisms involving the cannabinoids, which may substantially inform the neural subtracts that underlie continual deficits in cognition following repetitive exposure to marijuana (Block et al, 2000).
Evidence point out that working memory is greatly disrupted through acute marijuana use, including delayed matching to sample as well as n-back tasks. Moreover, the is considerable animal literature, which report impaired working memory as a result of acute as well as chronic administration of cannabinoids, which also includes impaired delayed matching sample tasks (DMTS) performance which actually resembles lesions.
Thus, a general scarcity of studies that endeavor to investigate working memory as well as associated functions in chronic marijuana users within the unintoxicated state is now, more than ever, being rectified with a great number of recent literatures. Kanayama et al (2004) applied the functional magnetic resonance imaging in order to study the spatial working memory in the long-term heavy marijuana users using a comparatively simple task. According to the results established by Kanayama, many of the users made non-significantly more errors on the task, even though a small error in both categories indicated the simplicity of the task and it has been recommended that performance deficits in chronic marijuana users would be more likely to emerge in the most complicated tasks. Nonetheless, greater as well as more widespread brain activation was reflected by marijuana users, with augmented activation of the regions generally used in spatial working memory tasks. The authors then interpreted their findings in terms of marijuana users encountering subtle neurophysiological deficiencies for which they actually compensate through working harder as well as calling upon additional brain regions in efforts to meet the demands of the given task. Furthermore, the increased activation of the anterior limbic cortex was especially thought to indicate an increased effort in order to overcome marijuana-induced impairment to attention as well as to coordinate activities from the wide range of regions that are recruited to undertake the task.
Another functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) study of a smaller group of teen marijuana users undertaking an n-back working memory task with the extra selective attention load focused evaluations on the hippocampus was performed, and irrespective of a mean of ten months of abstinence, the marijuana users performed much more less accurately on the undertaking as compared to non-smokers and on some measures, compared to tobacco users (which was the selective attention load), however, without extra decrement as a function of the memory load. In addition, many of the users failed to disengage the right hippocampus across the undertaking conditions in contrast to the control groups. With these findings, Jacobsen et al (2004) indicated an abnormally of the inhibitory hippocampus inter-neurons.
Moreover, in a further study of abstinent teens marijuana users aged between 13 years to 18 years and tobacco users as a control group, the authors established fMRI proof of the impaired neurocircuitry in the performance of the n-back auditory working memory undertaking in the marijuana group, but only following the withdrawal of nicotine. The subjects of this particular study were tested twice, including ad libitum tobacco smoking as well as again tobacco abstinence after 24 hours. Besides, the marijuana users were basically abstinent for two weeks before the testing. In the tobacco abstinence situation, marijuana users indicate augmented task-associated activation of posterior cortex regions as well as disrupted frontoparietal connectivity in a high verbal working memory load (Jacobsen et al, 2007). However, the performance on the n-back undertaking got even worse with memory load in marijuana users for both smoking as well as abstinence from tobacco. Furthermore, poor retention rates were very evident among the marijuana users only during the withdrawal from nicotine. What was found interesting was that the alterations present during nicotine withdrawal were very apparent for only the marijuana users. Jacobsen et al (2007) therefore, indicated that the use of nicotine can, in fact, mask the effects of marijuana, therefore, protecting against a number of its cognitive effects in correcting performance.
Jager et al (2006) administered working memory task in his fMRI study and established no deficits among the moderately repetitive adolescent marijuana users only after one week of abstinence. They also found minimal regional brain activation differences among the users as well as the control group; however, marijuana users indicated small decrease in activity within the left superior parietal region in response to the decrease in memory load as compared to their counterparts, the control group.
Applying various real-world functioning approach, the study by Wadsworth et al (2006) evaluated mood as well as cognitive performance within a sample of workers with and also without recent marijuana use, prior and after work at the beginning and end of the working week. From the conclusion of this study, details in regard to the levels of marijuana use among the workers studied were precluding as well as scanting. A simple verbal reasoning task was used in order to measure the working memory. Moreover, other memory tasks comprised delayed as well as immediate free recall and recognition of twenty words that were basically presented on a computer screen. In addition, a semantic processing task measuring the speed of retrieval of knowledge from the general memory was also used. The findings of this study established that poor performance levels in terms of verbal reasoning was found or highly prevalent among the marijuana users during the beginning of the working week, which related with the frequency of marijuana use. The study also established that marijuana users had a slow response organization in addition to lower alertness as compared with marijuana non-users. Towards the end of the week, marijuana user indicated even a slower psychomotor speed, therefore, showing lack of improvement in terms of speed throughout the working week, contrary to the control group. Indeed, the findings of this study point out to the impaired level of performance among the marijuana users, which may be reflected only under particular conditions such as when they are tired or are under heavy cognition load (Wadsworth et al, 2006).
The studies discussed above about both the short and long-term heavy marijuana users as well as matched non-users on a number of measures present very important approach to understanding the effect of marijuana, particularly on the human working memory. From the studies evaluated, it is very clear that the level of performance for marijuana users become much poorer as compared to their non-users counterpart on most of the measures, though in some cases it differed slightly in terms of errors, spiral recognition memory, as well as strategy. In addition, the studies also indicate that the level of performance among marijuana users worsened as a function of time duration of marijuana usage.
Most o f the ore recent studies have, in fact, replicated impairment in learning, decayed recall, as well as recall itself with some proof of decay among many of the marijuana users. Verbal learning and memory have been mostly the most consistently affected cognitive functions in many of the acute marijuana administration studies as well as also in chronic marijuana users. In particular, poor performance has been repeatedly reported in acute studies. It is therefore, without doubt that the use of marijuana has a great impact on the working human memory. However, in order to fully unveil the effects of marijuana on the working memory of humans, it is very necessary that further research be directed into this area, since this will allow a better comparison of the differences as well as similarities among the findings in the adult long-term heavy marijuana users as well as those in the teenage cohort (Harvey et al, 2007).
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