Yale is establishing a center to study the impact of cannabis on the brain and mental health

NEW HAVEN — Yale University’s newly established Center for the Science of Cannabis and Cannabinoids aims to study marijuana’s impact on the brain and mental health, especially at the two different ends of a human life spectrum.

Dr. Deepak D’Souza, a professor of psychiatry at Yale and a staff psychiatrist at VA Connecticut Healthcare System, said it was the right time to establish the center because more people would use cannabis given its commercialization.

“For that reason, it would be very important for us to understand the consequences, the impact of these changes on our society,” said D’Souza, the center’s director. “One of the areas we’re specifically interested in is the impact of cannabis on the brain and the impact of cannabis on mental health.”
He said there is no such center on the East Coast that studies cannabis and cannabinoids, so this would put the university in the forefront. In addition, he hopes the center will bring together scientists within Yale and beyond to increase the amount and sophistication of the information.
“We do this so that we can generate high-quality information and science that can help individuals, families, cities, the state and the country make decisions relevant to public health,” D’Souza said.
What is the difference between cannabis and cannabinoids? D’Souza said cannabinoids are chemicals found in cannabis that cause psychoactive effects.
Since existing cannabis studies tend to focus on adults between the ages of 20 and 30, D’Souza said it’s important to understand its impact on older and younger people.
For example, he said older adults may be more vulnerable to the psychoactive and cardiovascular effects of cannabis. As a result, their driving ability “may be impaired to a greater extent than in young people,” he said.
Another end of the spectrum of life, D’Souza said, is that it’s also important to study how cannabis affects the developing brain. He said there is an increase in cannabis use among pregnant people.

“Using cannabis during pregnancy exposes the developing brain to cannabis, and we need to understand what happens to children born to mothers who may have used cannabis during pregnancy,” he said.
While there are researchers at Yale who are already working independently on cannabis, D’Souza said the center will bring them together to collaborate “by looking at the same question from perhaps different angles.”
The center will also try to recruit people from outside Yale for certain unique skills or interests, according to D’Souza.
The center’s director said the School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry has allocated some funds to enable the collection of pilot data to start some studies so they can use them for future grant applications to the National Institute of Health.

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Yale is establishing a center to study the impact of cannabis on the brain and mental health

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