Commentary: This is Your “Little Brain” on Cannabis

This article from Psychology Today brings up an important topic of conversation for medical professionals.

Perhaps the high concentration of CB1 receptors in the cerebellum is a protective adaptation. Poor coordination and difficulty with visual tracking should be a warning to slow down, both in terms of cannabinoid ingestion and movement. Unfortunately, poor judgement on the part of the frontal cortex and reward circuitry is able to override this primitive early warning system and we all know the outcome when that happens. Continuing to ignore the brain’s innate warning circuitry would be a classic example of addictive behavior leading to long-term negative consequences for both the individual and those around them. We all bring expectations and ingrained attitudes to our interpretation and understanding of any new scientific finding. Might I suggest that we consider alternative explanations and clinical interpretations before jumping to a conclusion not supported by strong causal evidence?

-Dr. David G. Ostrow

This Is Your "Little Brain" on Cannabis

Two systematic reviews unearth potent effects of cannabis on the cerebellum.

by Christopher Bergland for Psychology Today

Increasingly, our “little brain” is being recognized as playing a bigger role than previously thought in cognition, learning, emotions, and addiction. Because human cerebellum has a high density of CB1 cannabinoid receptors, there is speculation that cannabis use most likely affects both cerebellar function and structure. In recent months, two different systematic reviews have done deep and detailed dives into how cannabis affects the cerebellum. 

The first review, from January 2019, “The Cerebellum, THC, and Cannabis Addiction: Findings from Animal and Human Studies,” was published in The Cerebellum journal. This review (Moreno-Rius, 2019) analyzed previous studies on human subjects and animal models that had identified various ways that cannabis affects the cerebellum. The author of this review also looked at how cannabis-related changes to the cerebellar structure and functional connectivity might influence addictive behaviors.