With a growing number of states legalizing recreational or medical marijuana, more women are using the drug during pregnancy, in part due to its reported ability to relieve morning sickness. A new study, conducted in rats, sheds light on how cannabis exposure affects the brain of a developing fetus.
Previous research has shown children born to mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy are more likely to develop behavioral problems as well as learning and memory impairments. The new research offers further confirmation on those findings and pinpoints how the drug alters the intricate connections in nerves in the hippocampus, the brain’s center for learning and memory. Understanding exactly how marijuana affects these brain connections could one day lead to interventions to reduce the damage, researchers say.
“The findings from this study will serve as an excellent premise for future interventions to restore memory in children exposed to cannabis during pregnancy, and for the first time, identify a specific mechanism by which learning and memory impairment occurs and how this impairment can be ameliorated,” said Priyanka Das Pinky, a graduate student in the laboratory of Vishnu Suppiramaniam, PhD, acting associate dean for research and graduate programs at Auburn University.