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Marijuana Use Actually Dulls Creative Thinking, Says Psychologist

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Marijuana users usually harp on weed's creativity-boosting benefits, but a psychologist is saying those who take cannabis are actually not good at creative thinking.

For his Ph.D. defense, psychologist Mikael Kowal carried out experiments on regular marijuana users to determine the chronic and direct effects of cannabis on brain functions related to the hormone dopamine, like creative thinking and recognizing one's mistakes. For the experiments, a 20-person control group given placebo was also in place.

Dopamine was a particular focus of Kowal's research because it is a hormone crucial to the brain's proper functions and also has a role in determining learning performance.

Based on his experiments, Kowal observed that those who routinely used marijuana showed poorer brainstorming ability, which is necessary for creative performance. Given this, the research disproves the belief that using marijuana enhances a user's creativity.

Additionally, the experiments demonstrated that chronic cannabis users exhibited less effective brain processes when monitoring mistakes. High doses of marijuana also appeared to have an influence not only on unconscious mistake processes, but also the active, more conscious stages later on.

It wasn't clear, however, how the psychologist defined chronic use and what constituted a high marijuana dose, as well as the method of uptake employed by the participants.

"It is important that we gather more knowledge about the effects of cannabis on a person's ability to detect mistakes," said Kowal, citing results can be used in coming up with better treatment programs to address drug addiction.

In an earlier study conducted by researchers from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas in Dallas, it was discovered that long-term marijuana use does affect the brain, but the exact effects experienced may depend on how long a user has been taking cannabis and the age at which the substance was first used.

Using several MRI methods, the researchers found that long-term cannabis users have a tendency to have smaller orbitofrontal cortices, a brain region typically associated with addiction. At the same time, however, long-term users also exhibited increased brain connectivity, with heavier use correlating to more connections.

According to the researchers, this may be the brain compensating for gray matter loss by increasing structural and functional connectivity.

Cannabis use remains controversial, but the National Institutes of Health has found that more adults in the U.S. are using marijuana, with the number of users jumping from 21.9 million in 2002 to 31.9 million in 2014. The NIH was unable to determine what exactly caused the spike in marijuana users, but says it may have to do with the public changing their perception on cannabis use.

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