Cannabis Users Have Higher Emotional Processing and Empathy, Study Shows

In Education

Researchers have discovered an unexpected link between frequent marijuana consumption and heightened empathy. A study reveals that individuals who use cannabis regularly exhibit greater emotional understanding compared to non-users, challenging preconceived notions about the effects of marijuana on emotional processing.

THC impacts anterior cingulate cortex which controls empathy

The study examines the effects of cannabis on the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a crucial region involved in empathy and emotional processing. It sheds light on how cannabis use impacts the brain’s capacity to comprehend and empathize with others’ emotions.

Although cannabis and marijuana are terms that are usually used interchangeably, they do differ in terms of origins and connotations.

Cannabis is a scientific term referring to the plant genus Cannabis, including species such as Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These species serve various purposes, including recreational, medicinal, and industrial uses (hemp). On the other hand, marijuana specifically refers to the psychoactive parts of the Cannabis plant, containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which induces intoxication. The term “marijuana,” popular in informal and cultural settings, refers to the leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds used to produce psychoactive effects.

The terms are frequently interchanged due to common usage, especially in contexts related to drug use and legislation. However, ‘cannabis’ encompasses a broader range, including non-psychoactive hemp used in industrial and health-related products.

THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, binds to CB1 receptors in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, impacting cognitive and emotional functions like empathy and emotional stimuli processing. Chronic use associates with brain structure and CB1 receptor changes in the ACC.

Cannabis users showed high emotional comprehension

The study included two groups: 85 regular cannabis users and 51 non-users (control group). Participants were chosen based on specific criteria, excluding those with neurological disorders, psychopharmaceutical use, depression, and other substance use disorders. This meticulous selection process ensured that any observed effects could be confidently linked to cannabis use.

Frequent cannabis users exhibit heightened emotional comprehension, demonstrating superior recognition of others’ emotions. This is associated with increased connectivity between the ACC and somatosensory brain regions, distinguishing them from non-users.

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