New research suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may be beneficial for treating the drug-resistant symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a severe long-term mental disorder that is characterized by hallucinations and delusions, thought disorders, difficulty with concentration and memory, disorganized speech or behavior, and a decrease in daily activities participation. The disorder affects more than 200,000 Americans every year.
Researchers at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute conducted an animal study to investigate the non-psychoactive cannabinoid’s ability to alleviate cognitive impairment and improve learning, memory and attention in patients with schizophrenia.
“We found that CBD was able to restore recognition and working memory, as well as social behavior to normal levels,” said PhD candidate and researcher Ashleigh Osborne. “These findings are interesting because they suggest that CBD may be able to treat some of the symptoms of schizophrenia that are seemingly resistant to existing medications.”
Traditionally prescribed antipsychotic medications are typically effective at addressing the delusions and hallucinations related to schizophrenia, but are less effective at treating the cognitive and negative symptoms, like blunted emotional expression and social withdrawal. In addition, current antipsychotic medications often have negative side effects, such as movement disorder and weight gain.
“In addition [to its symptom benefits], CBD treatment did not alter body weight or food intake, which are common side effects of antipsychotic drug treatment,” Osborne added.
The research team used a prenatal infection model to examine the effects of chronic CBD treatments on cognition and social interaction. To generate a psychiatric disorder, pregnant rats were infected with polyinosinic-polycytidilic acid. The male offspring were injected 10 milligrams per kilogram of CBD for three weeks. The animals were then tested for cognition, working memory, and sociability. Their weight and food and water intake were also measured.
Osborne was inspired to study CBD’s potential therapeutic benefits for schizophrenia after she and supervisors, Dr. Katrina Green and Professor Nadia Solowij of the University of Wollongong (UOW), conducted a research review of 27 existing studies to investigate CBD’s beneficial effects on neurological disorders.
“From this review, we found that CBD will not improve learning and memory in healthy brains, but may improve aspects of learning and memory in illnesses associated with cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease, as well as neurological and neuro-inflammatory disorders,” said Green. “Evidence suggests that CBD is neuroprotective and can reduce cognitive impairment associated with the use of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”
The evidence of CBD’s neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties in that review inspired Osborne to work with Green, Solowij, as well as research team members Xu-Fent Huang and lijana Babic, to investigate CBD’s potential benefits on cognitive impairments related to schizophrenia.
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