- Video Games
Though marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the country, little is definitively known about its impact on the brain.
A study taking place at Indiana University in Bloomington is designed to help change that.
Clinical psychologist Brian O'Donnell and colleague Sharlene Newman are recruiting current and former marijuana users to participate in a study in which their brains will be analyzed for changes in structure and function.
"From animal studies, there's reason to believe it (marijuana use) will affect parts of the brain and also the connections between them, and some of our preliminary studies suggest that is the case," said O'Donnell, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
The study — funded by a $275,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health — is taking place as marijuana is gaining more acceptance in some parts of the country. For example, marijuana has been legalized for adult use in such places as Colorado, Washington state, Alaska and Oregon, and many states now have medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"It's being decriminalized, but without knowledge of really its long-term effects on brain structure or function," O'Donnell said. People who choose to use marijuana need to know "what aspects of physical or mental function it might affect."
Recreational use of marijuana is illegal in both Indiana and Kentucky, but Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill into law in April, allowing limited prescribing of cannabidiol, a marijuana derivative. The product, sometimes called cannabis oil, has shown promise in treating children who have epileptic seizures, said Van Ingram, director of Kentucky's Office of Drug Control Policy. In general, efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky have failed.
The IU researchers — who will use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to conduct the study — are recruiting 90 people, ages 18-35, to participate in their research. Along with current and past users of marijuana, the study, which is one of the first of its type, will include people who've never used the drug.
"We're comparing the subjects in the different groups," said Newman, who's an associate professor and the director of IU's Brain Imaging Facility. "... The group that's never used marijuana is our baseline group."
The users will go through drug screening to verify that they aren't taking other drugs. "We want to study the effects of marijuana, not the effects of marijuana plus cocaine or marijuana plus a lot of alcohol," O'Donnell said.
Former marijuana users are being studied because it's possible that "smoking cannabis causes problems in the brain in terms of structure or in terms of function, but maybe, people recover after they stop using it for a little while," he said.
Study participants will undergo a series of brain scans so that the research team can do connectivity analysis.
"Connectivity analysis tells us something about the efficiency of the communication between brain regions," Newman said in an email. "I like to think of the brain as an electrical circuit. If the insulation on the wires is not intact, you can get current leakage resulting in faulty communication. ... If the connections between brain regions are faulty, then the functioning of the brain will be faulty/inconsistent. With the MRI techniques we will use, we will be able to examine the integrity of the insulation."
Prior to brain scanning, participants will undergo tests of perception, thinking and memory and take a questionnaire about problems they may be having, such as strange hallucinations, O'Donnell said.
In a previous study, the researchers found that connectivity in the brain was altered in cannabis users in a way that seemed to make the brain less efficient, he said.
O'Donnell noted that people who smoke a lot of marijuana in adolescence are at increased risk later in life of developing schizophrenia. But "we don't know whether marijuana smoking causes that. It might be that people who are becoming mentally ill tend to smoke marijuana," he said. In the new study, the research team will explore whether people who smoke more marijuana over their lives experience more symptoms that are similar to schizophrenics'.
"I think there's a big lack of knowledge about how marijuana might affect the brain and importantly, whether those changes last a long time or not," O'Donnell said. One thing that will be looked at is "whether people who started use earlier in life, say as middle-schoolers, show more problems with mental health or cognition than those who maybe started in college."
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, negative effects of marijuana include altered perceptions and mood, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, disrupted learning and memory, and impact on brain development. Marijuana also may affect cardiopulmonary health, according to the institute.
But "what most people don't know is that there hasn't been a lot of research focusing on marijuana — up until very recently in fact — at least (as) to how it affects the brain," said Dr. Francesca Filbey, an associate professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.
"There's been a lot more attention toward alcohol, nicotine and other illicit drugs like cocaine," said Filbey, director of cognitive neuroscience research in addictive disorders at the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas. Also, the approaches have varied across studies and the findings have been inconsistent, she noted.
Filbey is the lead author of a recently published study that is similar to the research underway at IU. She and other researchers studied 48 chronic marijuana users and found that they had reduced gray matter volume in the orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with addiction, decision-making, inhibition and adaptive learning. However, there was increased connectivity, which suggests that the brain may be able to compensate for that, Filbey said. But it's unclear how the changes that were noted affect marijuana users' behavior, and the researchers didn't find a correlation with users' IQ.
Filbey noted that those who started using marijuana earlier in life had greater abnormalities in the brain.
It's important to learn more about marijuana's impact on the body because changes in legislation suggest that more people in the United States will be using the drug, and existing studies "have suggested there are effects on the brain, but what's most important is that these effects are particularly detrimental when use is initiated during adolescence," Filbey said.
By Darla Carter
Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) officials reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week that the influenza (flu) activity level in the state has increased from “regional” to “widespread.” Widespread activity is the highest level of flu activity, which indicates increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state. The activity levels for states are tracked weekly as part of the CDC’s national flu surveillance system.
"With current widespread flu activity being reported in Kentucky and National Influenza Week still ongoing, now is a good time to protect yourself and your family by putting a flu shot on your holiday to do list," said Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner of DPH. “As the holidays approach, people will be traveling and families will gather together, increasing the potential for exposure to the flu. We are strongly urging anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly those at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with local health departments or other providers.”
National Influenza Vaccination Week began Dec. 7 and will run through Dec. 13, coinciding with the holiday season to help reduce the spread of illness as Kentuckians gather for shopping, travel and holiday parties and family events.Flu vaccinations are widely available at local health departments, provider offices, local clinics and pharmacies. Many health plans cover the cost of the vaccine.Public health officials emphasized that it isn’t too late for the vaccine to be effective. The flu season can begin as early as October and last through May.
The holiday season is still a good time to get vaccinated against the flu because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop and offer protection against flu. However, vaccination can be given any time during the flu season, and this year there is a plentiful vaccine supply.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals 6 months of age and older. People who are especially encouraged to receive the flu vaccine, because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences, include:• Children ages 6 months to 19 years;• Pregnant women;• People 50 years old or older;• People of any age with chronic health problems;• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;• Health care workers;•Caregivers of or people who live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu; and•Out-of-home caregivers of or people who live with children less than 6 months old.
Kentuckians should receive a new flu vaccination each season for optimal protection. Healthy, non-pregnant people ages 2 through 49 can be vaccinated with either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray. Children younger than 9 years old who did not receive a previous seasonal flu vaccination should receive a second dose at least four weeks after their first vaccination.
Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Flu is a very contagious disease caused by the flu virus, which spreads from person to person.
Approximately 23,000 deaths due to seasonal flu and its complications occur on average each year in the U.S., according to recently updated estimates from the CDC. However, actual numbers of deaths vary from year to year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released information last week that some of the nation’s circulating influenza A (H3N2) type viruses, the most common so far, may not be covered well by this year’s vaccine. This situation is not unusual. It is challenging to anticipate the strains that will circulate during the season since flu vaccine is made months before the season begins. Despite the possibility of a poor vaccine match for one of the circulating strains, vaccination still provides the best protection against influenza. The vaccine appears to be a good match for many of the strains which are being transmitted and because of antibody cross-protection should help to reduce hospitalizations and deaths, even in persons who may contract the mismatched strain of influenza.
In addition to flu vaccine, DPH strongly encourages all adults 65 years and older and others in high risk groups to ask their health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines can help prevent a type of pneumonia, one of the flu’s most serious and potentially deadly complications. The CDC now recommends that adults 65 years or older receive the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, Prevnar-13) in addition to the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23, PNEUMOVAX-23). Getting both vaccines offers the best protection against pneumococcal disease. Between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths are attributed to flu and pneumonia nationally each year, with more than 90 percent of those deaths occurring in people age 65 and older.
For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, please contact your local health department or visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov.
Kentucky Press News Service
FRANKFORT – Pregnancy can increase the risk for complications from influenza, such as pneumonia, making it even more important for expectant mothers to get a flu vaccination.
In fact, pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized from complications of the flu than non-pregnant women of the same age. For this reason, as well as other health concerns, officials from the Kentucky Department for Public Health urge pregnant women to be immunized against the flu before the upcoming holidays and before onset of the peak flu season, which typically occurs in Kentucky in February or March.
"Pregnancy changes the mother’s immune system, as well as affecting her heart and lungs,” Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner of DPH, said in a state news release. “These changes may place pregnant women at increased risk for complications from the flu as well as hospitalizations and even death. Contracting the flu virus during pregnancy may also cause an increase in serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that women who are or become pregnant during the flu season should receive an inactivated flu vaccine. It can be given to pregnant women at any point during their pregnancy.
“Leading health officials agree that the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy and for breastfeeding mothers,” Mayfield said. “The Kentucky Department for Public Health urges all pregnant women to get vaccinated against the flu.”
Immunizing the mother during pregnancy also has the added benefit of protecting her newborn. Immune antibodies are passed across the placenta before delivery, which could help to protect the infant during the first months after delivery, as the vaccine is not recommended for infants younger than six months of age.
“Vaccinating pregnant women protects mothers, their unborn babies and their babies after birth,” Mayfield said in the news release. “Vaccination of the mother and all other household contacts before birth is the most effective measure to prevent flu infection in infants less than six months old.”
Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Flu is a very contagious disease caused by the influenza virus, which spreads from person to person through contact with infected nasal and oral secretions. While vaccine supplies are expected to be ample this season, DPH advises individuals to call ahead to check with their health care provider, local health department or pharmacy about the availability of flu vaccine.
HEALTH INSURANCE OPTIONS FOR KENTUCKY RESIDENTS
Open Enrollment starts November 15, 2014 thru February 15, 2015
Do you need help in looking at the options available?
Don’t know where to start or don’t have access to the internet?
WE CAN HELP
Northeast KY Community Action Agency is offering FREE assistance to anyone interested in reviewing the health insurance options available through the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange. No income limits apply to receive our assistance. Call one of our local offices for an appointment.
Boyd Raymond Graeves 606-225-7418
Carter Charity Brown 606-225-7419
Elliott Dawnita Lewis 606-225-7420
Greenup Tammy Moore 606-225-7421
Lawrence Mary Roberts 606-225-7422
This free service is available through:
Northeast Kentucky Community Action Agency
21039 W US 60
Olive Hill KY 41164
Louisa, KY -- A bad headache. Difficulty focusing. Confusion or fumbling to find words. It’s tempting to explain away troubling symptoms and chalk them up to fatigue, eye trouble, one too many cups of coffee. But these symptoms – particularly if they’re severe – may signal a stroke.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and heart disease. A disease that affects the blood supply to the brain, stroke occurs when a blood vessel or artery is blocked by a blood clot or bursts. When this happens, the area of the brain that is supplied with oxygen and nutrients by this blood vessel is damaged. As a result, the body part or function controlled by this part of the brain doesn’t operate the right way.
Another frightening statistic: according to the National Stroke Association, people who have a stroke are four times as likely to have another stroke during their lifetime. Recurrent strokes carry an even higher risk of death and disability because the brain has previously been injured by the original stroke.
A stroke can change a person’s life forever. It can leave the victim with moderate to severe physical, mental or psychological disabilities. Depending on the area of the brain affected, a stroke victim may lose their memory, speech, balance, certain fine motor skills, control over certain muscles or movement of entire limbs – even paralysis of one side of the body. A person’s personality or behavior can be forever changed by a stroke. They may have difficulty reading, processing information or even eating.
About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, where a blockage of a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain occurs. The clot can form in the brain area, or in a blood vessel elsewhere in the body – the heart, chest area or neck – where it can break loose and travel to the brain. The remaining 13 percent are called hemorrhagic strokes – strokes caused by a weakened blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. A brain aneurysm refers to the bulging of the weakened blood vessel, which continues to weaken and, if not treated, breaks and bleeds into the brain.
If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, act quickly. A stroke is an emergency – and mere seconds can make an enormous difference in the outcome for a stroke survivor. Call 9-1-1 and try to recall the time that symptoms first appeared. If a stroke victim receives immediate medical assistance, a clot-busting drug can be administered by medical personnel within three hours of first symptoms which may reduce the likelihood of long-term disability resulting from a stroke. The quicker that medical care is received, the greater a stroke victim’s chances are of not only surviving a stroke, but minimizing its effects.
Learn to recognize stroke signs, and be prepared – to save a friend or loved one’s life, or your own.
available that may help reduce the long-term effects of stroke.
Three Rivers Medical Center has been awarded Joint Commission Top Performer distinction three years in a row. The Emergency Department is an Accredited Chest Pain Center. TRMC is a 90-bed, acute care facility. It is accredited by The Joint Commission. With over 80 medical staff members, TRMC offers cardiology, general surgery, nephrology, orthopedics, urology, gynecology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, gastroenterology, podiatry, 24-hour emergency care, diagnostic radiation, rehabilitative services and mental health.