A company called Medicinal Genomics has released the raw genetic sequence of cannabis sativa on the Amazon EC2 public cloud, according to the Nature blog. The goal of the company is to explore the many possible therapeutic applications of the genome for various ailments.
Meanwhile, Scientific American has reported on a study of the side effects of marijuana use. The research sought to determine whether stereotypical symptoms, such as diminished cognitive function and memory loss, were accurate.
This study builds on previous work by Harvard researchers demonstrating that the learning and memory impairments of heavy marijuana users typically vanish within twenty eight days of “smoking cessation.” (The slight impairments still existed, however, one week after smoking.) While several days might sound like a long hippocampal hangover, heavy alcohol users typically experience deficits that persist for several months, if not years. In other words, heavy marijuana appears to be a lot less damaging than alcoholism.
The study was particularly noteworthy in its unbiased approach, analyzing marijuana's reputation for enhancing creativity (see our story on Shakespeare and pot here).
Why does marijuana increase access to far reaching intellectual connections? One possibility is that the beneficial effect of the drug is mediated by mood. Mar
ijuana, after all, has long been used to quiet anxious nerves – big pharma is currently exploring targeted versions of THC as a next generation anxiolytic – as only a few puffs seem to dramatically increase feelings of relaxation and euphoria. (The technical term for this, of course, is getting stoned.) Furthermore, recent research has suggested that performance on various tests of remote associations and divergent thinking – a hallmark of creativity – are dramatically enhanced by such positive moods.
Fascinatingly, the research pointed to the fact that the good mood produced by marijuana was more conducive to creativity than any other effects of the plant, pointing to a 2003 study in Germany that demonstrated a relationship between a positive state of mind and an increase of associations in the brain.
And this returns us to marijuana: putting people in a positive mood roughly doubled their accuracy at the task. All of a sudden, they were twice as good at identifying problems with possible solutions. This suggests that anything that makes us happier, reducing vigilance and anxiety, might also make us more creative. We can detect more remote associations, of course, but we also know which associations are worth pursuing, which is probably even more important. It doesn’t matter if it’s pot, chocolate or a stand-up comic – those substances or experiences that put a smile on our face can also increase the powers of the imagination, at least when solving particular creative problems.
Via Nature and Scientific American.