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University of Utah Awarded Grant to Study Cannabis and the Human Brain

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In a two-year plan to study 40 people, researchers hope to examine how and why cannabis interacts with the human brain in different ways.

University of Utah Health, a local health care system, will soon be making great steps towards a deeper understanding of cannabis with the aid of a $740,000 research grant. Researchers hope to investigate how certain components found in cannabis affect the human brain and explain why these components have differing effects on different people.

“We still do not understand many fundamental cannabinoids mechanisms, such as which receptors in the brain they work through and how they cause changes in brain networks underlying attention, anxiety, pain and mood.” said Jon-Kar Zubieta, MD, PhD, chair of the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.

Lawmakers often cite the lack of research and evidence as reason for delaying legislation involving progressive cannabis regulation. However, just last March Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill giving terminally ill patients the right to try medical cannabis, a small step in the right direction. Furthermore, on November 6th, Utah residents will have the opportunity to vote on medical cannabis in the state’s general election. With the arrival studies like this particular research project, cannabis supporters and advocates may soon look forward to more laws that reflect up to date information on cannabis.

The two-year study will examine 40 healthy adults using brain-imaging technology to study effects of placebo, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as well as cannabidiol (CBD) on the brain. The researchers involved in this exciting project hail from several areas of expertise including the departments of neuropsychology, physics, neuro-imaging and biostatistics.

The impressive grant was given to the university from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation in partnership with Wholistic Research and Education Foundation, a California-based nonprofit “dedicated to exploring the health benefits of CBD-rich therapeutics.” With the help of organizations like these two donors, the cannabis community and its allies can look forward to a future of notable progress in regards to cannabis research and legislation.

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