Researchers turn to brain imaging to understand cannabis impairment

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Studies dive into the brain to determine how cannabis affect brain activity

It has been quite a few years now where there has been a clear discussion about the effects that cannabis has on a person’s mental and cognitive impairment. Because of this, many researchers have been looking for an effective method to measure this impairment, specifically after cannabis is consumed. Although some companies have gone the breathalyzer route and have been able to measure a person’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels, this is not really enough to determine impairment. However, after new results from a new study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) focused on the brain, brain imaging appears to be the solution to the problem.

After several Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers got together to study this issue further, they discovered a reliable, non-invasive brain imaging procedure that has the ability to determine and identify THC-related performance impairment in people.

“Companies are developing breathalyzer devices that only measure exposure to cannabis but not impairment from cannabis,” says Study Author Jodi Gilman, Ph.D. “We need a method that won’t penalize medical marijuana users or others with insufficient amounts of cannabis in their system to impair their performance. While it requires further study, we believe brain-based testing could provide an objective, practical, and much-needed solution.”

In order to perform this measurement properly, the method relies on the use of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology to obtain the necessary information about brain activation patterns. According to many specialists and experts in the field, this new technique can mean great positive changes in road and occupational safety, especially in recent times where increased legalization has created a need for more in-depth research.