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continued from Marijuana As Muse


    Alongside the redistribution of cerebral blood flow in the brain, marijuana increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters during intoxication. Neurotransmitters are chemicals which activate different parts of the brain by binding to neurotransmitter receptors located between neurons. Through binding, the neurotransmitters cause their respective neurons to fire, resulting in a signal which causes such physiological effects as happiness (serotonin), memory acquisition (glutamate) and drunkenness (GABA).  Dopamine is one such neurotransmitter which exhibits an increase in numbers during marijuana intoxication. Like serotonin, dopamine is a major player in the production of euphoria, but states of happiness are not the only positive results of dopamine release. According to Flaherty, dopamine plays a major role in the promotion of creativity by decreasing latent inhibition and promoting novelty-seeking.    


    Latent inhibition is the tendency to disregard certain sensory stimuli that are deemed unimportant at the present moment, thereby decreasing these stimuli’s influence on the mind. For instance, in reading this article, you have probably forgotten the feeling of sitting down in a chair, of hearing murmurs in the next room, etc. By decreasing latent inhibition, dopamine encourages human beings to, according to Flaherty, “find patterns in what would otherwise be a disorienting barrage of sense data.” One of dopamine’s effects, then, is to allow for an increased perceptual awareness in which the colors, sounds and feelings of the world are experienced to a heightened degree.


    Second, dopamine promotes creativity via the reward-reinforcement pathway by affecting the areas in the brain associated with novelty-seeking. Novelty is a chief motivator for creative individuals, and studies have shown dopamine to evoke within us the desire to discover new ways of looking at the world, the notion of creative drive again here arising. In promoting novelty-seeking, dopamine encourages us to accomplish tasks that we want to accomplish. Correlations between dopamine and novelty seeking were demonstrated in a study performed in Israel using the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ)—a test which measures four distinct domains of temperament, including Novelty Seeking and Reward Dependence. It was found that unrelated Israeli subjects who scored higher than average Novelty Seeking test scores all exhibited the same physiological tendency of increased dopamine release during creativity testing. Similar results were reported in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2008. In an experiment done on 34 healthy adults, results demonstrated noticeable dopaminergic responses to novelty and other conditions conducive to increased dopamine activity.


    Dr. Kenneth Heilman, author of Creativity and the Brain, notes: “…studies of large cohorts of college students found that the students who use marijuana tend to be novelty seeking and more creative than the students who did not use this drug.” This connection between cannabis and novelty seeking is supported by studies which reveal marijuana’s effect of increasing dopamine release in the brain. THC is the major psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant and has been shown to exhibit a dose-dependent effect on the firing rate and burst firing of dopamine neurons within the brain. In a study published in Neuropsychopharmacology in 2009, researchers sought to discover the addictive properties of cannabis and found THC to induce dopamine release in the human striatum. These studies are challenged, however, by other research yielding results demonstrating no such connection. Dr. Paul Strokes of Psychiatry Group and Imperial College in London, for instance, studied the link between marijuana and the development of schizophrenia by analyzing THC’s effect on dopamine-related pathways, concluding that marijuana consumption did not show any correlative effects on the rate or amount of dopamine released in the striatum (2009). The stark contradiction between these two studies must be put into context by noting that neither study had more than 13 subjects involved in either experiment. This considered, it is possible that marijuana generates creativity by increasing dopamine release, but larger pools of test subjects are necessary during further experimentation to draw more statistically-supported conclusions to make this fact.
         

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