Friday, May 25, 2007
Via Scientific American, by J.R. Minkel:
Molecules may help young brain cells forge the right connections—but only at the right time and place
Natural marijuanalike chemicals may direct key brain cells to make proper connections while in the womb, according to a new study. Researchers report that the molecules, called cannabinoids, serve as guideposts for young cells in the attention and decision-making parts of fetal mouse brains.
The finding may help explain studies showing that the children of mothers who smoked marijuana during pregnancy are slower to process information than their peers (although they are just as intelligent overall). Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, might knock the cell-guiding machinery off course by overstimulating the brain. Researchers, however, say they are still a long way from determining exactly what effects endocannabinoids and THC have on developing human brains.