Students Participate in Cannibas Sativa Study

Last semester, at UVM, a group of Bio-Psych majors began drafting a research protocol with the intent of presenting it to the local IRB, a board of researchers, administrators and community members that review research protocols and determine if they are ethically sound. This project was taken under the wing of Professor Richard Musty, of the Pharmacology department. The primary investigator Rick, as the research team calls him, helped the aspiring scientists to make the proper revisions and follow the formal method of creating a research protocol, which was later accepted by the IRB. The study is now occurring in the Dewy Psychology building on Pearl Street. Andrew Dole, a Vermont senior and bio-psych major, has taken charge of the study now that the protocol has been approved and he has created a team of student researchers who are helping out around the lab and accumulating the data necessary to confirm the hypothesis of the study. The study is concerned with the effects that certain substances have on the brain and how they effect memory. The study is split into two sections. The first is concerned with working memory: the ability to learn a new task after becoming adjusted to a different task. And second, a reference memory test: seeing if the subjects can remember a task based upon their past experience of doing it. The substance in question is tetrahydracannibanol, or more commonly known as THC: the active chemical in marijuana. It has been previously suggested that THC has a negative effect on memory task, which is what the Vermont students are hoping to support. They are not using THC itself, but instead two different chemicals that have comparable structures. One is an agonist molecule: at the neural receptors, it will effect the brain the same way that THC would. And the second chemical is an antagonist: it fits into the neural receptors in the brain as if it were THC, though without the effects of THC. It thereby blocks the actual THC from causing a “high.” There are several implications to this study that are of interest to the average UVM student. First, the antagonist molecule acts in a way that may help to prevent memory loss not only in the individuals who smoke marijuana often, but past studies have indicated that it could actually improve memory for most people. This is a hypothesis that Andrew Dole is particularly interested in as he continues the study. The second point of interest is concerning the agonist molecule: if Mr. Dole can help confirm the past findings that indicated that THC, or similar substances, will cause memory deficits then it might be the right time to pass that peace pipe on down the line and salvage what ever is left in that beautiful mind of yours. ` Andrew Dole has received a Helix grant for his research and is expecting to carry the study through the rest of the semester and perhaps into the spring.