WRITER: SETH COOMBS
CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: April 5, 1999
Study focuses on effects of chronic marijuana use on
brain function and cognition
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Robert I. Block, Ph.D., associate professor
in the department of anesthesia at the University of Iowa College of Medicine,
is looking for subjects to complete his ongoing study on chronic marijuana
use, brain function and cognition.
The study, begun in March 1997, with colleagues from the
UI departments of radiology, psychology, psychiatry and social work, is using
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans
to monitor a hypothesized decrease in blood flow through areas of the brain
relevant to cognition.
"The main emphasis is on the PET tests," Block said. "During
several tests of memory and attention, we will look at the areas we know to
be active to see if there is less blood flow among marijuana users."
Block, who has been at the UI since 1984, has performed
numerous studies on marijuana and its effects on cognitive ability.
Acute effects of the drug include memory impairment, and
it is possible that such difficulties would persist due to heavy use, according
to Block. "The idea is that the effects may be long-lasting, but it's premature
to say there are actual changes in long-term or permanent brain function associated
with chronic marijuana use," he said.
Those interested in participating in the study within
the Iowa City area can call for information at (319) 353-6434. Those closer
to the Des Moines area, call (515) 246-6585.