Marijuana is being used to treat many ailments now, rather than focusing on opioids or other painkillers. The same is becoming true for people who suffer from depression. The effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on humans is being researched to understand how it can positively impact emotional processing.
The Research Says
In a recent study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to gauge the eleven volunteer subjects’ brain activity. Subjects were shown a number of faces expressing different emotions and asked whether they thought the person was happy or fearful. This task was used to gauge whether THC would impact how the subjects perceived others’ emotions. Those who were given THC were less accurate at identifying negative emotions and showed no loss in accuracy with respect to faces showing positive emotion. THC is known to decrease brain activity in response to negative stimuli, which may be a reason for the result.
The results of this study are widely reviewed because they indicate THC administration reduces the negative basis in emotional processing. Depression impacts people by creating a negative bias about the self, world, and the future. The ‘negative bias’ refers to a phenomenon where one person gives more weight to negative experiences than positive ones. This may even have an impact on a person’s long term outlook, not just in the short term. When a negative bias is applied to a person’s everyday life, it can cause them to perceive more neutral stimuli in a negative way than others. If THC is shown to have a negative effect on the negative bias, it could prove useful in treatment of depression.
Clinical depression is very serious for millions of Americans. Finding some relief for it has been the focus of studies on cannabis although more research is needed to gain clarity around exactly how it will help people with depression.
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