Heavy use of marijuana may put adolescents who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia at greater risk of developing the brain disorder, according to research presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
Using a sophisticated brain imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), researchers at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, studied the brains of groups of adolescents: healthy, non-drug users; heavy marijuana smokers (daily use for at least one year); and schizophrenic patients. Unlike magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which provides a static picture of brain structures, DTI detects and measures the motion of water molecules in the brain, which can reveal microscopic abnormalities.
Manzar Ashtari, Ph.D., Sanjiv Kumra, M.D., and colleagues used DTI to examine the arcuate fasciculus, a bundle of fibers connecting the Broca’s area in the left frontal lobe and the Wernickes area in the left temporal lobe of the brain. The investigators found that repeated exposure to marijuana was related to abnormalities in the development of this fiber pathway, which is associated with the higher aspects of language and auditory functions.
Maureen Morley | EurekAlert!
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