Exposing the Developing Brain to Marijuana: What are the Risks?


December 3, 2015 :: Diana Dow-Edwards, PhD
Moderated by Dylan Purcell

Marijuana is the most highly abused illegal substance during pregnancy and in adolescence and yet, many people are not aware that it is addicting to the user and toxic to the developing nervous system. This talk will present the scope of the problem, an outline of the role of cannabinoids in normal brain function and an illustration of how marijuana causes chaotic neuronal growth early in development.

The speaker will review the longitudinal human studies, from both maternal and adolescent smoking, and show some data on the effects of early stress on marijuana responses in animal models and as well, illustrate the role of natural cannabinoids in stress responses. With Canada considering legalization of marijuana, the goal is to better understand the role of cannabinoids in development and how smoking marijuana during sensitive periods can permanently alter the developmental trajectory of important neuronal circuits.

Speaker: Diana Dow-Edwards, PhD

Dr. Dow-Edwards is Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York and Fulbright Distinguished Visiting Research Chair at the University of Lethbridge. She has been studying the effects of a variety of abuse substances on brain functional development for over 30 years. Her lab focuses on the effects of drugs on the functional ontogeny of the nervous system with a special emphasis on male-female differences in these effects. Dr. Dow-Edwards research has characterized the sex differences in the effects of cocaine on brain functional development and behavior.

Additionally, she is interested in the effects of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) on components of executive function. Her highly translational studies have contributed greatly to understanding brain-behavior relationships and how drug exposure during development permanently alters the neural circuits mediating these relationships. Dr. Dow-Edwards is working with Dr. Robbin Gibb at U of L’s Department of Neuroscience and Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience to determine whether the effects of adolescent THC on behavior and brain architecture can be reversed.

Moderator: Dylan Purcell
Date: Thursday, December 3, 2015
Time: Noon - 1:30 PM (30 minutes each for presentation, lunch and Q & A)
Location: Country Kitchen Catering (lower level of the Keg) 1715 Mayor Magrath Dr. S
Cost: $11.00 (includes lunch) or $2.00 (includes coffee/tea at the presentation)


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