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Mystery Author Cornwell Funds $500K Brain Research On Medical Pot At McLean

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This just in from McLean Hospital, the Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital known as a major center for research on mental health:

Belmont, Mass. – Thanks to a $500,000 gift from international best-selling author and mental health advocate Patricia Cornwell, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers will launch a landmark new program that will more fully explore the potential impact of medical marijuana on cognition, brain structure and function. This first-of-its-kind program, known as the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) Program, will also gauge study participants’ perceptions of their own quality of life as it relates to medical marijuana treatment.

“We are seeing the country’s view on marijuana shift dramatically and now is the time to allow science to inform our policies and our decisions,” said Cornwell, who is a member of McLean Hospital’s National Council and was presented with the hospital’s highest honor in 2012 for her mental health advocacy. “The MIND Program has the potential to revolutionize what we know about medical marijuana and what we think we know.”

Despite the move toward the legalization of medical marijuana, with 23 states and the District of Columbia legalizing its use, no published studies to date have assessed its direct and specific potential impact on cognition and brain function. Therefore, it is critical to investigate the impact that medical marijuana has on patients, the results of which could inform the course of treatment, safety guidelines and public policy. As the number of states who have passed medical marijuana laws continues to grow, the “need to know” has never been more important, relevant or timely.

“At this point, policy has vastly outpaced science, with little empirical data available regarding the impact of medical marijuana on cognitive function, despite the legal status of the product in a growing number of states,” said lead investigator Staci Gruber, PhD, director of the Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core at McLean Hospital and associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Findings from this investigation will ultimately foster a greater understanding of the impact of medical marijuana on cognitive function and brain structure, and may in turn facilitate the examination of the efficacy of marijuana for the different disorders for which it is prescribed.”

Medical marijuana is controversial, but few dispute that more research on it is needed as more states legalize it. Eager to sign up to be in a study? Dr. Gruber is already actively recruiting at brainstudy@mclean.harvard.edu.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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