WellesleyWeston Magazine

FALL 2017

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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V H C R E A T I V E / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M memory, the ability to control impulses, and inhibit inappropriate responses. It may even decrease overall IQ. A 2012 New Zealand study showed that persistent marijuana use was linked to a decline in IQ, even after the researchers controlled for educational differences. The most persistent marijuana users experi- enced a drop in neuropsychological functioning that was equivalent to about six IQ points, similar to what you might see with lead exposure. Not all study findings are consistent with regard to the impact on IQ, however, and research in this area continues. "This is a hotly contested topic," says Gruber. What is clear is that the neurological risks of early cannabis expo- sure may extend until the second or possibly even third decade of life. And there is evidence that the younger you start and the more you use, the greater difficulties you may have with brain function. This may also be self-fulfilling — studies have shown that those who start using at younger ages tend to use pot more often and in higher amounts over time. "The two are inextricably linked," Gruber notes. The results have been striking. Data from Gruber's studies, as well as those of other researchers, have shown that chronic, heavy marijuana smokers who start using at an earlier age (under 16), show changes in brain structure and function when compared with people who start using marijuana at an older age. Users who start younger appear to have more difficulty with cognitive tasks, particularly those mediated by the frontal cortex, which is responsible for many functions, including what is often referred to as "executive function"— higher mental pro- cesses such as thinking, decision making, and planning. Interestingly, later onset smokers don't appear to have the same level of difficulty with frontally mediated tasks and appear more like those who have never smoked marijuana. Earlier versus later marijuana use also slows the function of the white matter, the brain's highway system, which nor- mally allows quick and efficient communication from one region of the brain to another. In addition to slowing brain-processing speed, marijuana use in younger people has been shown to negatively impact verbal learning, Chronic, heavy marijuana smokers who start using at an earlier age (under 16), show changes in brain structure and function when compared with people who start using marijuana at an older age. 92 Cannabis and Our Kids W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | f a l l 2 0 1 7

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