Does marijuana improve your night vision?
Although we’ve done plenty of testing of the substance over the years, it wasn’t something we ever thought about before. But this week, reports that it might be responsible for improving night vision have been bouncing around our news feeds. A little weed science provides just the election day break we need from real news.
Apparently, the fishermen of the world’s ganja growing lands know something that we don’t. According to The Guardian, marijuana has been used as a folk remedy to improve night vision in many parts of the world. The article points to Jamaican fishermen, who navigate treacherous coastal passages in the dark after consuming marijuana infused rum. Residents of the mountains of Morocco – as well as some of the country’s fishermen – have also been reported to smoke hashish to improve their night vision.
Although researchers had previously conducted some small scale trials to measure light sensitivity after exposure to cannabinoids, these trials measured the effects without attempting to understand the mechanisms responsible. Recently, however, researchers published a study in Elife Sciences, an academic journal. The study applied a synthetic cannabinoid to cells from tadpole retinas. Although tadpoles are a far cry from humans on the evolution scale, we share some visual properties that make them suitable analogs for such research.
The science gets pretty heavy here, but to boil it down, cannabinoids seem to inhibit – at least in tadpoles – the production of a protein known as NKCC1. This protein helps regulate the electrical properties of retinal ganglia cells, increasing their light sensitivity. In further research, tadpoles treated this way proved more able to avoid obstacles in the dark than their weed free peers. Researchers suggest that this may have implications for better tailored marijuana based treatments for glaucoma and other diseases impacting the retina.