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Learning and Cannabidiol

By Seth B October 05, 2021

Everyone's familiar with the stereotype that too much marijuana will make you giggly and forgetful. The truth, of course, is far more complex than the stereotype. Despite the fact that hemp contains a variety of potentially useful compounds, a lack of awareness about these compounds can sometimes lead to them being incorrectly viewed as one and the same. Greater public attention to cannabidiol, or CBD, has allowed people to distinguish it from THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana's intoxicating effects. The same level of attention should be given to research findings that suggest CBD oil may have possible positive implications for certain learning and memory processes.

A study done in 2017 was documented on the use of cannabidiol for treating cognitive health issues. The test was to examine the immediate and long-term effects of chronic cannabinoid exposure on object recognition/working memory, repetitive and compulsive behaviors, as well as anxiety. 

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In the brain, every neuron counts when it comes to learning and memory, because many neurons are not replaced if they die. Neuroprotection, or the ability of certain compounds and processes to actually prevent damage from occurring to neurons, is therefore highly important for the well-being of our brains, as well as making sure that we can learn and remember properly. CBD may be involved in neuroprotective processes, which could relate to some of the findings we've covered regarding CBD's results in schizophrenia therapy trials and its possible antioxidant role.

Schiavon et al. published a study in 2014 that considered how mice responded to treatment with CBD after experiencing neurodegeneration, or neuron death. Mice that received CBD performed better on spatial learning tests, compared to the mice that did not receive it. Brain imaging of the mice later revealed that the mice receiving CBD also showed less neurodegeneration in their hippocampus, a part of the brain that is vital for spatial memory, long-term memory recall, and learning. The authors indicated that CBD may have had neuroprotective effects for these mice, which in turn may have facilitated better learning performance.

CBD's possible influence on learning does not stop with spatial awareness, either. Another important part of learning is being able to adapt to healthier life patterns and behaviors, especially when we are experiencing stress. Could CBD provide help with more adaptive behaviors? This idea is still being explored, but the initial findings suggest that this is possible. Weiss et al. examined animal models of recovery from addictive behaviors in order to explore the potential adaptive impact of CBD on these behaviors. They used transdermal preparations of CBD in their study. Amazingly, CBD was associated with a greater likelihood of adaptive behaviors such as reduced impulsivity and decreased drug-seeking. There are, of course, differences between animal models and people, but these results open the door to investigating CBD's possibilities for behavioral learning.

Free radicals and other stressors can have harmful effects on the brain and our ability to learn. Neuroprotection and neuroadaptation are therefore qualities that could be desirable in a daily supplement. CBD will continue to be studied for these types of roles.


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