Hearing things when you’re high? The chemical compound in marijuana that gets you high, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short, may be the culprit behind the strange “brain noises” reported by some cannabis users.
The scientific community has known for a while that the cannabinoid THC has the potential to induce “transient psychotic effects” in users who use cannabis for its psychoactive effects. These psychosis-like effects are akin to schizophrenia, say researchers, but the underlying causes remain unclear.
Recent studies on the psychosis-like effects of THC may have shed new light on the problem. A new study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, reports that Delta-9-THC increases random neural activity, termed “neural noise,” in the brains of healthy human subjects. The findings suggest that increased neural noise may play a role in the psychosis-like effects of cannabis.
Dr. Deepak Cyril D’Souza, a Professor of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, explained:
“At doses roughly equivalent to half or a single joint, ∆9-THC produced psychosis-like effects and increased neural noise in humans.”
Dr. Jose Cortes-Briones, a Postdoctoral Associate in Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and first author of the report, added that
“The dose-dependent and strong positive relationship between these two findings suggest that the psychosis-like effects of cannabis may be related to neural noise which disrupts the brain’s normal information processing.”
The researchers studied 24 subjects over a period of three days, using a double-blind, randomized, cross-over, and counterbalanced design to gather accurate and controlled data. Subjects were given either two doses of intravenous ∆9-THC or placebo.
If confirmed, the link between neural noise and psychosis could shed light on the biology of some of the symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
The findings are very significant for medical cannabis patients and for informing the debate surrounding marijuana legalization and access to its medicinal products.
Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, observes how
“The impairment of cortical function by Delta-9-THC could underlie some of the cognitive effects of marijuana. Not only does this finding aid our understanding of the processes underlying psychosis, it underscores an important concern in the debate surrounding medical and legalized access to marijuana.”
To read the study, follow this citation:
- Jose A. Cortes-Briones, John D. Cahill, Patrick D. Skosnik, Daniel H. Mathalon, Ashley Williams, R. Andrew Sewell, Brian J. Roach, Judith M. Ford, Mohini Ranganathan, Deepak Cyril D’Souza. The Psychosis-like Effects of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Are Associated With Increased Cortical Noise in Healthy Humans. Biological Psychiatry, 2015; 78 (11): 805 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.03.023