Study Finds Marijuana Use Associated With Increased Empathy

Those who consume marijuana have higher levels of emotional comprehension and empathy compared to non-users, according to a study published by the Journal of Neuroscience Research.

“It has been reported that cannabis consumption affects the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a structure with a central role in mediating the empathic response”, notes the study’s researchers. “In this study, we compared psychometric scores of empathy subscales, between a group of regular cannabis users (85, users) and a group of non-consumers (51, controls).”

Researchers found that “users have a greater Emotional Comprehension, a cognitive empathy trait involving the understanding of the “other” emotional state.”

The study states that “Resting state functional MRI in a smaller sample (users = 46, controls = 34) allowed to identify greater functional connectivity (FC) of the ACC with the left somatomotor cortex (SMC), in users when compared to controls. These differences were also evident within the empathy core network, where users showed greater within network FC.”

The greater FC showed by the users “is associated with emotional representational areas and empathy-related regions. In addition, the differences in psychometric scores suggest that users have more empathic comprehension.”

These findings “suggest a potential association between cannabis use, a greater comprehension of the other’s affective state and the functional brain organization of the users.”

“Although further research is needed, these results open an exciting new window for exploring the potential effects of cannabis in aiding treatments for conditions involving deficits in social interactions, such as sociopathy, social anxiety, and avoidant personality disorder, among others,” Víctor Olalde-Mathieu, PhD, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

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