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UWM features Dr. Lisdahl's research on their homepage

posted Aug 29, 2012, 7:18 AM by UWM Brain Lab   [ updated Aug 29, 2012, 7:19 AM ]
UWM recently interviewed Dr. Lisdahl about her research into the effects on marijuana on the development of teenage brains. 

What if teenagers with a regular marijuana habit started going to the gym or cycling more? Would it diminish the damage that substance abuse does to their still-developing brains?

That’s the intriguing question behind a sweeping study at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) that focuses on the relationship of physical activity, marijuana abuse and brain functioning in teens and young adults.

Using three kinds of neuroimaging and multiple measures of fitness among young pot users and nonusing control subjects, the project, led by neuropsychologist Krista Lisdahl, aims to better understand the cognitive consequences of a chronic pot habit before the brain is fully “wired.”

The research also seeks more information about the process of connectivity in the maturing brain and the role of physical activity in that process. The ultimate goal: find an intervention that targets brain deterioration caused by habitual pot use in the early teen years, and perhaps even prevent the damage – or reduce drug abuse.

Regular marijuana use before age 16 has been shown to disrupt development in parts of the brain involved in “complex attention” and “executive functioning” skills – such as the ability to persist over time, make decisions, plan long range and withhold the urge to respond to an emotional cue – all controlled by brain areas that are underdeveloped in this age group.

Lisdahl acknowledges it’s a study that encompasses “many moving parts.”

It has also earned her the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on professionals in the early stages of their research careers. Hers is one of 96 awarded nationwide; she was recognized at the White House in July, where she met President Barack Obama. Funding for her award comes from the National Institutes of Health. [...]

The full story can be read over at the UWM website: Teenage brains on pot