Do you smoke pot? You might want to explore other methods of consuming cannabis because, apparently, it can cause brain aging.
According to a new study, smoking marijuana ages your brain by 2.8 years on average. But for those with schizophrenia, the habit ages the brain by four years.
Brain aging is defined as reduced blood flow through the brain. And reduced blood flow to the brain has been linked to dementia and stroke.
How the study was conducted
The researchers analyzed over 62,000 brain scans from more than 31,000 people aged between nine months to 105 years old. These scans were collected during both the subject’s rest and concentration. This means all factors that may contribute to brain aging, including subjects’ age and mental activity, have been considered.
The researchers looked into the blood flow through 128 regions of every subject’s brain in order to determine how old they thought the person was.
After learning the individual’s actual age, they measured the rate of accelerated aging.
Tracking mental disorders and behaviors that contribute to brain aging
The study’s results also suggest that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD accelerates brain aging by 1.4 years, while bipolar disorder speeds it up by 1.6 years.
Surprisingly, the researchers found no link between depression and brain aging. This could be because depression affects different parts of the brain that are affected by ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Lead author Dr. Daniel Amen said that based on their study, which is one of the largest brain imaging studies conducted, tracking common disorders and behaviors that prematurely cause brain aging is now possible. He said that better treatment of these disorders may slow down or completely halt the brain aging process.
Sachit Egan, another author of the study, added that their research represents an relevant step forward in the people’s understannding of how the human brain operates throughout its lifespan.
The results of the study further indicate that it is possible to predict one’s age based on the cerebral blood flow’s patterns, he said.
Egan also said that their research has laid the groundwork to further explore how common psychiatric disorders can influence healthy cerebral blood flow patterns.