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Published: Monday 8 May 2017 THC, a component in cannabis, could improve memory in old mice

Results published today suggest that THC, a chemical component of cannabis, could improve the memory and learning capabilities of old mice. The findings are published in Nature Medicine.

Low doses of THC were administered over a period of 28 days  in young (two months old), mature (12 months old) and old (18 months old) rodents. The researchers then tested the mice for their memory and learning skills and found that the older mice had their memory and learning abilities restored to similar levels to the younger mice. They found that these changes appeared to affect the activity of certain genes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for memory and learning.

However, there is as yet no evidence that THC would be able to work the same way in people.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

'This study shows that a component of cannabis, called THC, could have a beneficial effect on memory and learning in older mice. Though an interesting finding, the study does not shed light on the effect of THC on people with dementia, as it only looked at age-related memory decline in mice. The study also does not reveal anything about the effect of cannabis on dementia, or memory problems in old age, as THC is only one of many chemicals that make up cannabis, and we don’t know what effects the other chemicals might have.'

For more information, read our Behind the Headlines article on the use of cannabis for the treatment or prevention of dementia.