Marijuana affects how users process emotions

Scientists are still studying how marijuana affects the brain.
Scientists are still studying how marijuana affects the brain.

Cannabis, better known as marijuana or, commonly, weed, was already widely used before it became legal in several states. But it's not necessarily harmless, a recent study finds.

    Marijuana can affect the way a user processes emotions, researchers from Colorado State University say in a report a published Feb. 29 in the journal PLOS ONE.
     Scientists are not taking a pro or anti stance on marijuana use, a university news release said. Instead, they are attempting to determine how it affects the brain.    
     Lucy Troup, assistant professor of psychology at Colorado State, along with graduate students at the school, conducted experiments on 70 volunteers who were chronic, moderate or non-users.
      Those involved in the research were either  recreational users or medical-marijuana users. In Colorado, anyone 21 or older may buy marijuana from a licensed retail marijuana store. (See the state’s website.)
     The experiments spanned two years. Recruits were connected to an electroencephalogram, or EEG, according to the study. They were asked to look at faces with different expressions -- neutral, happy, fearful and angry.
     When compared with non-users, marijuana users had a more pronounced response to faces showing a negative expression, such as anger. They had a lesser reaction to happy expressions. Marijuana users also were less able to empathize with the emotions, the study found.
     “These effects appear to increase with those participants that self-reported the highest levels of cannabis consumption,” the study states. “These data suggest that there is a complex relationship between cannabis consumption and emotion processing that appears to be modulated by attention.” 


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