Office of Undergraduate Research

Effects of Physical Activity and Marijuana Use on Brain Function in Teens

Marijuana (MJ) use is the second most popular drug in teens. It is relatively unknown how adolescent MJ use affects affective processing or frontolimbic connectivity. To date, there are no known treatments to ameliorate frontolimbic brain functioning in adolescent MJ users. In adults, benefits of physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness on brain health have been established. This NIH/NIDA-funded six-year study will characterize the effects of MJ use on brain health and establish whether physical activity normalizes the negative consequences of MJ use on the brain in teens. Data are being collected from 120 teens with and without a history of MJ use. Over five visits, all teens undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, VO2 (cardiorespiratory) testing, an activity log, cognitive testing and neuropsychological interview/testing. Using modern statistical software, MJ use and VO2 levels will be examined in relation to cognitive functioning and brain health in over 100 teens.

Tasks and responsibilities:

RAs will have the opportunity to work on a NIH/NIDA-funded project that will span 6 years. In addition to attending weekly laboratory meetings, he/she will be trained to administer brief psychological screening interviews by phone to teens and their parents to establish initial eligibility. She/he will also assist our full-time research manager with running the protocol- providing them with hands-on experience running a human subjects study in a clinical setting. RAs will assist with scoring protocols and entering data into SPSS (statistical software). She/he will also be provided with training in AFNI to process the MRI imaging. Depending on their level of training and research experience, students may receive training in neuropsychological assessment. Lastly, he/she will assist in running both the VO2 max and MRI sessions- unique experiences for an undergraduate to ever experience!