Researchers at Tel Aviv University alleviated autism symptoms in animal models using medical cannabis oil, according to a study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry outlined by Israel 21c. Shani Poleg, the Ph.D. candidate who led the research, said the team found that cannabis oil had “a favorable effect on compulsive and anxious behaviors in model animals.”
“According to the prevailing theory, autism involves overarousal of the brain, which causes compulsive behavior. In the lab, in addition to the behavioral results, we saw a significant decrease in the concentration of the arousing neurotransmitter glutamate in the spinal fluid — which can explain the reduction in behavioral symptoms.” — Poleg to Israel21c
The researchers found that CBD treatment alone had no impact on the behavior of the animal models, while THC-rich cannabis oil produced “equal or even better behavioral and biochemical effects.”
“We observed significant improvement in behavioral tests following treatments with cannabis oil containing small amounts of THC,” Poleg said in the interview, “and observed no long-term effects in cognitive or emotional tests conducted a month and a half after the treatment began.”
The study authors note that treating children with autism spectrum disorder using cannabis products “raises medical and ethical questions” since many patients are young children.
“During young childhood and adolescence, multiple neurological systems, such as the glutamatergic, dopaminergic and endocannabinoid systems, rearrange and maturate,” the authors write. “Data show that some cannabinoids, THC among them, might harm the developing brain.”
The authors said the study results “question the necessity of high doses of CBD in medical cannabis oils designated for alleviating [autism spectrum disorder] core symptoms, and suggest that a medical cannabis oil that contains relatively small doses of THC is preferable, due to an additional plausible effect on social behavior.”
A separate study conducted by researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center published last year found more than 80% of parents of autistic children reported significant or moderate improvement in their child while using CBD-rich cannabis oils.
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