Photo cred - girlsthatloveweed

Weed is on the brains of Montrealers all the time, especially recently, what with the opening of the province's first medical marijuana clinic in the city, but what about what happens to your brain when smoking weed? A lot of conflicting research has been done on the subject, but researchers at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas decided to determine fact from fiction.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed and mapped out the brains of 110 people, 62 of which never smoke/ingest weed with the remaining 48 being active cannabis users. 27 out of the 48 only smoked weed, and never used other drugs.

Two major differences were found when the researchers analyzed the MRI scans of the regular weed smokers and compared them to the non-smokers:

  • A shrunken orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the area in the brain associated with cognitive reward/punishment processes
  • Higher functional connectivity and structural integrity

So the brain technically shrinks when you're a regular weed smoker, with the OFC being smaller, an effect which is more pronounced when you start smoking when you're younger, but that potential negative side-effect is evened out by having a better connected neural network.

Francesca Filbey, the study's lead author, explained to the Washington Post that the smaller OFC, which controls the brain's reward system, was likely affected by the rewarding effects of marijuana use, or at least how smokers perceive it as a reward.

Filbey also notes the "brain seems to be able to compensate for any kind of loss in order to keep that network maintained," or as we're going to understand it: smoking weed may make your brain smaller but no less efficient.

Looking for more? Click here for Why Smoking Weed Is Good For Your Relationship >

For more on all things Montreal, follow Michael on Twitter @MDAlimonte

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