The a stage of significant exposure to neurocognitive effects

The Fontes, et al. (2011) study
investigated the impact of cannabis use on brain development prior to and subsequent
to attaining the age of 15 years. The authors referred to several scholars who
previously investigated these relationships, and they indicate that most of
these studies suggest that puberty is a stage of significant exposure to
neurocognitive effects linked to substance abuse. On the other hand, the
authors point out that few important studies have endeavoured to measure the
disparities in cognitive performance involving chronic addicts of cannabis who
begun abusing cannabis before attaining the age of 15 years, with chronic addicts
who started after reaching the age of 15. Longitudinal, as well as
cross-sectional structural brain imaging research have demonstrated that the
brain, prior to the reaching 15 years of age, is under a complicated course of
biological development. The motive of the study by Fontes, et al. (2011) was to
probe the executive functioning of persons who began chronic abuse of cannabis
before attaining the age of 15, compared with those who started after attaining
the age of 15.

According to Fontes, et al. (2011),
while several studies have established neuropsychological deficits linked to
chronic cannabis exposure, there are study outcomes investigating recurrent cognitive
impairments linked to chronic cannabis that show contradictory viewpoints.  The authors continue to assert that some
studies demonstrate that even after practicing abstinence, chronic cannabis addicts
may continue to experience considerable neuropsychological deficits. The authors
explain that these conflicting findings may be based on the hypothesis that the
neurotoxic effects of cannabis differ among populations. In this regard, when
persons of less than 15 years of age are exposed to substances that are potentially
neurotoxic, they become more liable to develop recurrent neuropsychological
deficits, in comparison to older persons.

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Fontes, et al. (2011) asserts that
adolescents are at risk of defective cognitive effects related to the abuse of
cannabis. The authors allege that results from diverse studies imply that chronic
cannabis addicts process complicated information significantly slowly, while performance
deteriorates in cognitive overload responsibilities as lifetime use increases.
It is in this context that Fontes, et al. (2011) investigated the effect on
executive functioning among 104 chronic cannabis addicts. While focusing on
executive functioning, the group was divided in two sets, where 49 individuals
were chronic users in the early-onset category and 55 individuals, late-onset
chronic users, as well as 44 healthy controls that carried out
neuropsychological responsibilities. The control group involved individuals who
had not abused cannabis in the previous 3 months, and less than 5 times in
their lifetime. Comparisons concerning neuropsychological measures were carried
out through a generalised linear model analysis of variance (ANOVA). These chronic
users of cannabis were initially under care at the Substance Use Disorder
Program, Federal University of Sao Paulo.

In the study, Fontes, et al. (2011)
held the hypothesis that the early-onset group (prior to 15 years of age) was
likely to exhibit poor performance in cognitive tests that evaluate executive
functioning , in comparison to the late-onset group (after 15 years of age),
and the healthy controls. The inclusion criteria employed for chronic users of
cannabis was males and females, between 18 and 55 years of age, exhibiting DSM-IV
cannabis abuse or addiction as stipulated by the Composite International Diagnostic
Interview (CIDI). The criteria for exclusion entailed present record of other
DSM-IV Axis I disorders, excluding nicotine-related disorders as stipulated by CIDI;
present usage of psychoactive drugs, record of head trauma with seizures for above
5 minutes, intellectual incapacity or approximate IQ less than 80, as well as irreparable
hearing, vision or injury. Persons in the control group were eligible for the
study on condition that they were between 18 and 55 years of age, and did not abuse
psychoactive substances, did not hold a record of head trauma, and never
diagnosed with Axis I DSM-IV disorders in their lifetime. The study’s protocol was
endorsed by the local institutional review board, while the respondents were
under obligation to consent in writing, in line with the Federal University of
Sao Paulo review board.

The study findings point out that
the early onset cohort are cognitively impaired in relation to controls,
implying that early use of cannabis is linked to negative impact on the brain.
These outcomes correspond to preceding studies that investigated cognitive effects
linked to early exposure to cannabis. The study did not establish disparities in
executive functioning
performance between the late-onset cohort and the healthy cohort.

In conclusion, the study findings
imply that early-onset chronic users of cannabis but not
display executive deficits, while the contrary is the case in the late-onset
group. While the fundamental mechanisms may not be entirely understood, it is
apparent that exposure to cannabis at an early age might hold more significant
detrimental impact on neurocognitive functioning.


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