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Ow! My brain hurts!
January 28, 2009 8:21 AM   Subscribe

How will Alzheimer's researchers ever reconcile this study and this study? Pardon me while I go find something to munch on while I ponder my options.

Marijuana's effect on Alzheimer's has been covered before but the convergence of the two memory studies on the same day was too good to bogart.
posted by stonedcoldsober (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why do I suspect that you are under the influence right now, stonedcoldsober?
posted by grouse at 8:24 AM on January 28, 2009


You really have to wonder what Nancy Reagan's reaction to that second study might be.
posted by orthogonality at 8:24 AM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always attributed my memory loss to marijuana.
posted by gman at 8:28 AM on January 28, 2009


You really have to wonder what Nancy Reagan's reaction to that second study might be.

Considering how she started supporting stem cells when she thought it could save Ronnie, I'm sure if there was a very strong connection, she would have flopped her Just Say No stance, but just for Ronnie.
posted by piratebowling at 8:30 AM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's funny, a lot of agricultural workers in the islands used to smoke marijuana to relieve hunger. I think that the "munchies" reaction to pot smoking is at least partially cultural. I am sure something physiological is going on as well, the anti-nausea effects of pot are well documented, but I think that people in different socioeconomic conditions may interpret the "good" stomach feelings they get from pot in different ways. And now, I will pass it...
posted by Mister_A at 8:31 AM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


gman: It appears that marijuana causes memory loss in younger patients but prevents it in older patients. It may come to the point where you have to prove you're eligible for a senior citizen's discount to purchase medical marijuana.
posted by stonedcoldsober at 8:32 AM on January 28, 2009


gman, you must be a young rat then. Article states effects on old rats was to improve memory, while on your rats the effect was the opposite.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:33 AM on January 28, 2009


Hmmmmmm... it really fucked with my grandmother's memory when she had lung cancer. Having said that, it did motivate her to clean the entire fuckin' house top to bottom every time- also the reverse of what it does to me.
posted by gman at 8:39 AM on January 28, 2009


There are multiple kinds of memory. Maybe Jane helps one but inhibits another.
posted by DU at 8:48 AM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't mention cocaine heroin or speed
In the same breath as weed
Because nobody ever ODed
Puffin' reefer
Cannabis sativa
Hemp or the cheeba
And I'm a believer
-Tone Loc
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:01 AM on January 28, 2009


I'm talking about the

"You know who I ran into today, honey?"
"No. Who, dear?"
"Who, what?"

variety.
posted by gman at 9:01 AM on January 28, 2009


Just to confuse issues more, it may be that amyloid beta aggregation is just what your brain does with spare amyloid beta. I don't have a bundle of links handy, but I believe that this line of reasoning arose from "The Nun Study" where, after their death, they found that several nuns who had no Alzheimer's like symptoms did have the plaques and tangles that are supposed to be the hallmark of Alzheimer's. As I understand it, the belief is that one specific aggregate of amyloid beta is bad, the others are mostly harmless.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:35 AM on January 28, 2009


I believe that generous helpings of coffee and cannabis will protect me from EVERYTHING. And if I am wrong, well LA LA LA LA LA I CANT HEAR YOU
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:39 AM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


BitterOldPunk, that will prevent you from not having a good time, at any rate.
posted by Mister_A at 9:48 AM on January 28, 2009


Alzheimer's is a disease unique to humans and the memory loss in the rats was a natural decline,

So, in fact, the study says absolutely nothing about whether marijuana can help with Alzheimers; instead it implies that it can help with non-Alzheimers related memory loss.
posted by ook at 9:58 AM on January 28, 2009


Hmm - is there a connection between weed and apple juice?
posted by sloe at 10:01 AM on January 28, 2009



It's funny, a lot of agricultural workers in the islands used to smoke marijuana to relieve hunger. I think that the "munchies" reaction to pot smoking is at least partially cultural


Agreed, I never got the munchies, it always killed my appetite. I never got spacey but my desire to be super-focused on a repetitive task increased ten-fold, which is great if you have to crosshatch (or chop vegetables) all day, but can create a fucking black-hole time sink if you happen to be playing videogames.

Also, I got the "Hey! lets wash the floors!" thing. Odd. Maybe I'm secretly a grandmother.


I believe that generous helpings of coffee and cannabis will protect me from EVERYTHING. And if I am wrong, well LA LA LA LA LA I CANT HEAR YOU


I've found that one counteracts the effects of the other nicely.
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 AM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if I am wrong, well LA LA LA LA LA I CANT HEAR YOU

*turns down stereo*

There, can you hear now?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:16 AM on January 28, 2009


Mister_A: Recent research seems to indicate that anandamide (the chemical that THC and other canabinoids mimic) acts opposite to leptin. Leptin is a hormone that makes you feel full when you eat. Anandamide, then, makes you NOT feel full when you eat. This is different from what we think of as the 'munchies'. Rather than being hungry, you're just never full, but not necessarily hungry.

This could be a boon for people with certain hormonal problems. Those with too much leptin always feel full, and don't eat enough. Those without enough never feel full, and eat too much. The converse may be true with regard to anadamide.
posted by kenotron at 10:38 AM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Alzheimer's is a disease unique to humans and the memory loss in the rats was a natural decline,

So, in fact, the study says absolutely nothing about whether marijuana can help with Alzheimers; instead it implies that it can help with non-Alzheimers related memory loss.

Don't spoil the buzz, man!

Seriously, there is a related set of diseases in animals (dogs and cats, anyway) called cognitive dysfunction. Not that that has anything to do with your sharp-eyed comment, I just thought I'd throw it out there. There have been other studies linking marijuana to cognitive improvement in rats induced with Alzheimer's so don't fear the reefer (apologies to Kansas).
posted by stonedcoldsober at 12:02 PM on January 28, 2009


Since we're discussing pot, the munchies, and mental health, here's a tale about the sorry state of the pharmaceutical industry.

Marijuana generally makes people happy and hungry, among other effects. These are primarily caused by various active constituents of marijuana (not just THC) activating the CB1 receptors in your brain. These substances are called, by science, CB1 agonists. There are other substances which are called CB1 inverse agonists and CB1 antagonists which tend to activate the CB1 receptors in the "opposite direction" (imprecise description) or block the activation of the receptors. They basically function as anti-weed.

Now the pharmaceutical companies come up with the logical hypothesis that if weed increases the appetite, anti-weed might decrease the appetite, and they started working on and even got to the point of selling some CB1 inverse agonists and antagonists as anti-obesity drugs.

Except, the industry sort of didn't think or somehow managed to overlook the equally obvious hypothesis that if weed lifts moods, anti-weed might just depress moods, and this line of treatment and research had to be dropped after a while as it was causing increased depression and suicidal ideation.

Oops.

Meanwhile, anyone else wondered why stoners don't really seem to be fatter on average than non-stoners, like you'd sort of expect, or am I just the victim of weird sampling bias? I was remarking to my friend the other day "It is fucking amazing how much I can get stoned and eat enormous amounts of food without getting fat."
posted by Sockpuppet For Naughty Things at 12:34 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sockpuppet For Naughy Things: Some grass makes you sleepy (Indica) and some makes you speedy. Several mefi-ers have already posted about cleaning floors, etc., while stoned medicated. Your observation could also be due to the fact that probably MANY more people actually use cannabis than admit to it.
posted by stonedcoldsober at 12:57 PM on January 28, 2009


That's not an entirely fair characterization, Sockpuppet. It's probably more accurate to say that the scientists researching CB1 inverse agonists and antagonists did know that mood depression was a real risk, but they simply hoped they'd get lucky and find a compound that would produce the desired effect without the undesired side effects. Such a compound is certainly a possibility, and many companies still have active programs looking for one. Given the potential market for such a drug, it's certainly worth looking into.

If you're more cynical, you might suspect that not only did the fine folks at Sanofi-Aventis know that rimonabant might cause depression, they may have designed their clinical studies to hide it.

Full disclosure: I work for another pharmaceutical company, researching the cannabinoid receptors.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 3:10 PM on January 28, 2009


but I believe that this line of reasoning arose from "The Nun Study"

The Nun Study database has recently moved to my division in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The findings from the study regarding variability in physical changes related to cognitive function can be found here.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:14 PM on January 28, 2009


just eat blueberries and walnuts when you get hungry.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:40 PM on January 28, 2009


I have a hard time with studies like these, because in actuality they only show association and not causation. This distinction is very important, and it's never highlighted enough in articles like these. Dr. Agnes Floel's study is making the assumption that it was the caloric reduction, and not the actual food eaten that caused the results. (I have not read Dr. Floel's study, I'm getting this from the CNN article). There is an inherent difference between calories derived from hershey's chocolate bars and beef/pork/chicken or beans/broccoli/bananas. Taking a reductionist approach to nutrition studies forces simplification on a complex process, something that may easily "simplify out" complex causative agents. I end up taking a study like this with a big grain of salt (although, being a true hypocrite, I'd cite this study in favor of a "calorie reduction leads to longer life/better health" argument at dinner parties or over drinks. Yes, I'm a blast at dinner parties, you should invite me over sometime).

The second study is even more demonstrative of association than causation. For the reasons cited above (inserting specific chemical compounds directly into rat brains is not equivalent to say, smoking a joint), as well as the simple fact that there's a vast difference between a rat and a human.
posted by herda05 at 4:07 PM on January 28, 2009


My only quip with science journalism like this, is they go and say "Even though the number of subjects in the study was not really high, they had really high, statistically significant improvements in their performance on the memory test", which really leads a fellow scientist to wonder... just how many subjects did they have? You could get statistically significant results with 5 subjects, but then you have to question the validity of generalizing that to the entire region, state, nation, world... And what was the memory test? Long-term, short-term... verbal, visual, tactile, auditory? Recognition or recitation?

There's always way too little attention given to methods, and way too much attention to the hype-buzz-bang interpretation. "Look! We can prevent Alzheimers!"
posted by tybeet at 6:28 AM on January 29, 2009


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