An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Video: What Are the Effects of Cannabis on the Brain?

  • Julie Fox
  • Slice of MIT

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“If the coronavirus circumstance informs anything here, it’s a recognition of how important it is to have government policy be influenced by reliable basic research,” says Charles R. Broderick ’99, MEng ’00 in a recent MIT Alumni Association Faculty Forum Online webinar. Broderick—who in 2019 made gifts totaling $9 million to Harvard Medical School and MIT’s School of Science, through the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, to study the effects of cannabis on the brain and behavior—kicks off the webinar, which highlights work happening as a result of the Broderick Fund for Phytocannabinoid Research.

The fund supports investigation in several brain research labs across MIT and Harvard, including that of John Gabrieli PhD ’87, Grover Hermann Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at MIT, and of Harvard faculty member Bruce Bean. In this forum, Broderick, Gabrieli, and Bean discuss the need for fundamental research on cannabis to inform evidence-based clinical guidelines and societal policies, and they describe some of the research already underway.

“The scientific knowledge is far behind the public interest, public use, and the concerns of all kinds of people who might benefit from the components of cannabidiols,” says Gabrieli, who discusses ongoing projects exploring cannabinoids’ ability to enhance cognition in schizophrenia, reduce anxiety in patients specifically with social anxiety disorder, and improve symptoms of autism and chronic pain. He said his group is also trying to better understand the risk of cannabinoid use in adolescence.

The webinar’s alumni audience asked questions about the applications of the different cannabinoids and the interaction of marijuana use with alcohol, prompting the researchers to emphasize that more research is needed to fully understand the intricacies. Watch the webinar.

Watch more archived Faculty Forum Online webinars, and register for upcoming MIT Alumni Association virtual programming.

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