Most addictive drugs inhibit the growth of new brain cells. But injections of a cannabis-like chemical seem to have the opposite effect in mice, according to new research. For several years now, researchers have been interested in how drugs affect a part of the brain known as the hippocampus. This region is unusual in that it can grow new neurons throughout a person’s lifetime. Researchers have theorized that these new cells help to improve memory while combating depression and mood disorders.
Although his findings point to potential benefits of smoking pot, Zhang says that he does not endorse its use. “Marijuana has been used for medicine and recreation for thousands of years,” he says. “But it can also lead to addiction.”