Scientists Studying Weed Make Breakthrough They Won’t Forget While High 

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March 2 2012 4:08 PM

Scientists Studying Weed Make Breakthrough They Won’t Forget While High

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(Marijuana, part of a load of five tons seized by police in the outskirts of Cali, department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia, on February 27, 2012.)

Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images

You don’t have to be Cheech or Chong to know marijuana messes with your memory.

But just in case you forgot, it does, and now scientists may know why. Long suspecting that pot's psychoactive compound THC caused memory loss by loosening the synapses in the hippocampus region of the brain, two international teams of researchers have recently discovered that non-neuronal cells called astrocytes, previously thought only to support neuron function, actually produce a chemical called AMPA when they interact with THC.

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This newly discovered compound can either mitigate or enhance synaptic responses that affect memory, resulting in those moments where you can’t remember where you put the Funyuns.

But this isn't just toker trivia. The discovery may lead to a whole new field of study, and the creation of THC-derived pain-killers that don't affect working memory. Soon we might be able to forget the word burnout as we burn one down.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.

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