Scientist’s talk explores effect of cannabis on developing brain

Scientist’s talk explores effect of cannabis on developing brain

A neuroscientist whose pioneering research has increased our understanding of the developing brain is the latest internationally renowned Aberdeen academic to give a public talk.

Professor Tibor Harkany led an international collaboration of scientists whose findings suggest that smoking cannabis while pregnant may affect brain development of the unborn child.

The researchers' discovery followed the study of naturally occurring molecules in our bodies called endocannabinoids that act in the same way that cannabis does in our bodies.

Endocannabinoids interact with targets or receptors found on the surface of nerve cells in the brain.

Researchers found that this is a vital step in normal brain development, because once these endocannabinoids have connected with receptors, they then send signals to guide the growth of brain cells, which is an essential step if the brain is to develop normally.

Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC in cannabis – which gives the high when cannabis is smoked – also interacts with these receptors.

While the scientists did not test cannabis compounds directly, their research suggests that cannabis smoking during pregnancy is detrimental to the unborn baby's brain. This is because THC disrupts the natural process of brain development.

Professor Harkany, Sixth Century Chair in Cell Biology and EMBO Young Investigator, will give an insight into this study and other areas of his research into the developing brain when he delivers the latest in this series of University of Aberdeen Inaugural Lectures.

Wiring and Firing Neuronal Networks: Endocannabinoids Take Centre Stage is Professor Harkany's talk which will begin with an introduction to the foetal brain and how it develops.

The lecture is open to all and takes place on Monday, November 3, at 6pm at the Auditorium within the Polwarth building at Foresterhill.

Places are free for the lecture, and can be booked online at www.abdn.ac.uk/inaugurallectures or by calling 01224 273 874. 

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