DEC 26, 2023 5:00 AM PST

Study Examines Cannabis Users' Anterior Cingulate and Its Role in Empathy

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research found differences in the brain’s anterior cingulate. The findings indicate that regular cannabis consumers tend to be more empathic than non-users. The anterior cingulate plays a significant role in empathy and regulates emotional response. 

The researchers analyzed brain imaging tests of 85 regular cannabis consumers and 51 controls (or non-users) who completed psychometric tests. They evaluated the functional magnetic resonance imaging exams from a subset of 46 cannabis users and 34 non-users. The analysis demonstrated that cannabis users had more robust connectivity between the anterior cingulate and brain regions involved in detecting the emotional states of others. Regular cannabis users showed differences in emotional comprehension, showing more consistent connectivity of empathy-related areas and increased anterior cingulate functional connectivity. 

The research team emphasized the importance of this finding for developing effective and appropriate cannabinoid therapies for patients managing interpersonal difficulties or anxieties. Study co-author Dr. Víctor Olalde-Mathieu (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) stated, “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.” More research on how cannabis increases empathy will reveal how cannabinoids influence emotional regulations and potentially identify product formulations that will successfully manage specific mental symptoms. 

The researchers believe that the findings point to future research directions on the positive effect of medical cannabis on the emotional affect and social interactions of those with developmental conditions, anxiety disorders, or mood disorders. 

The study found that regular cannabis users scored higher on emotional comprehension and demonstrated heightened connectivity of empathy-related areas and the empathy core network than non-users. The researchers noted that the findings point to the need to research clinical applications of cannabis’s positive effects on emotional affect and social interactions.

Sources: Eureka News Alert, Journal of Neuroscience Research


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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