Researchers at the University of British Columbia have recently conducted a study of the effects of THC on rats and to everyone’s great surprise, have found that the rats are far less willing to engage in strenuous cognitive tasks when under the influence of THC. Who knew?
The researchers have published their results in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. According to the study, this research is the first to study how THC affects cognitive tasks rather than physical ones:
While physical effort-based decision-making has recently been shown to be sensitive to cannabinoid receptor activation, it is unknown whether decisions involving cognitive effort costs are likewise susceptible.
With the goal of determining if THC makes rat brains lazy, researchers set out to design an experiment to test their hypothesis. Twenty-nine rats were trained to conduct cognitively strenuous tasks in order to obtain a sugar-filled treat. Rats were allowed to choose between a more difficult task for a larger treat, or an easier task for a smaller treat.
Most of the time, sober rats would choose the more difficult task every time in order to get that sweet, sweet sugar. When rats were stoned, however, they went for the easy task more often than not, took longer to complete tasks, or sometimes ignored tasks altogether. According to the researchers’ publication, the more stoned the rats were, the lazier they got:
At higher doses THC decreased trials completed, increased omissions and increased latencies to make a correct response — all of which may suggest THC decreased motivation for sucrose reward.
Mason Silveira, lead author of the published study, stated in a UBC press release that the rats were still able to conduct the trials asked of them, but just didn’t care:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that when we gave THC to these rats, they basically became cognitively lazy. What’s interesting, however, is that their ability to do the difficult challenge was unaffected by THC. The rats could still do the task— they just didn’t want to.
Maybe they should have offered the rats Doritos or Taco Bell, or asked them to play video games instead.