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The Financial Exchange with Barry Armstrong Listen to Dr. Staci Gruber discuss her research looking at the long-term effects of medical marijuana.
They met with Scott L. Rauch, MD, president and psychiatrist in chief, Ressler, Sabina Berretta, MD, scientific director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center; Staci Gruber, PhD, director of the Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core; Brent P. Forrester, MD, MSc, chief of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry; Michael R. Hollander, PhD, director of training and senior consultant for 3East; Hilary S. Connery, MD, PhD, clinical director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program; and Marisa M. Silveri, PhD, director of the Neurodevelopmental Laboratory on Addictions and Mental Health. â€œThe media fellowships have always been a really positive experience from our perspective.
About Us - Advisory Board » nkm2.org
Staci Gruber, Ph.D.
McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School
McLean Hospital | About Us : Staff Bios
Staci Gruber, PhD
McLean Hospital | About Us : Staff Bios
Staci Gruber, PhD
A neuroscientist is studying the long-term effects of medical marijuana - Business Insider
BELMONT, Mass. - Staci Gruber vividly remembers her first hit of marijuana, back when she was in college.
It made her
so paranoid, she
locked herself in a bathroom.
couldn't decide whether to remain in hiding or to run.
knew she'd never try pot again.
didn't lose interest in the drug, however.
runs the 2-year-old Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery, orMIND, project at McLean Hospital
in this suburb of Boston.
With cognitive testing and neuroimaging, MIND is conducting a longitudinal study of medical marijuana.
"There's a lot we don't know about long-term effects, and that's what I'm here to find out," Gruber
,49,has already made her
mark on the field.
ran a small study, published in 2013, that found teenagers and young adults who smoked marijuana were morelikely toexhibit impulsive behaviorthan their peers and were more likely to have certain changes in the brain's white matter.
A followup study found that those changes couldreorganize brain regionsassociated with inhibitions.
This year, Gruber's
research team also found thatchronic recreational users of pot had poorer cognitive and executive functioning, particularly if they began using marijuana as teens.
MIND's current work involves adults who are legally permitted to use marijuana-based products for medical conditions.
The researchers are particularly interested in the non-psychoactive components of the marijuana plant, such ascannabidiol, an ingredient in many preparations of medical marijuana.
"We have this one word, marijuana, which we think means every part of the plant, and it doesn't.
The cannabinoids I study aren't even the ones that get you high," Gruber
colleagues, by contrast, are trying to determine the long- and short-term impact of medical marijuanaon cognition, brain structure and function, quality of life, sleep, and other clinical measures.
"[This] is a primary concern for patients considering cannabinoid treatment, and it may have implications for public policy," Gruber
Before patients begin their treatment, Gruber and her colleagues establish a baseline - using imaging, interviews, and task performance tests - to see what patients' brains look like before they use medical marijuana.
The patients then record how much marijuana they're using, and how often.
At intervals of three, nine, 12, 18 and 24 months, MIND researchers conduct more tests, brain scans, and interviews to measure the effects of the cannabis on their brain structures, cognition, and daily life.
This is the part of Gruber's research that will be most valuable, said Madeline Meier, a marijuana researcher at the University of Arizona.
"People drive two to three hours sometimes to get [here for] the study," Gruber
earlier findings, raising red flags about the dangers of recreational pot smoking, have caught the eye of some activists, like the Seattle-based drug prevention program SAMA
, short for Science and Management of Addictions
The patients in MIND's studies bring their own marijuana products, which Gruber's
team analyzes for potency.
Gruber, Filbey, and several other researchers have formed a consortium, dubbedIDEAA, to pool their research data.
"We also hope to do some joint projects - pun intended - that can get funding," Gruber
"People are warming up to the idea of marijuana as medicine and funding is opening up."
For now, Gruber's
project is funded with private donations.
was asking a lot of really good questions," said Gruber
"Then I found out she
wanted to meet and talk more.
We went out for dinner and ended up talking about neuroscience until 2 o'clock in the morning."
Gruber first came to McLean Hospital in the 1990s to work as a lab assistant while completing two undergraduate degrees at schools 10 miles apart.
She majored in psychology at Tufts University in suburban Boston.
was also studying vocal performance and jazz at the New England Conservatory of Music
"I spent most of those years just running," Gruber said, shaking her head with the memory.
"You look back and wonder, 'How did I ever do that?
I could never do that now.' I guess that's what's great about being young."
While in college, Gruber
landed an internship at McLean in a lab studying the effects of marijuana on college students.
"From there," she
said, with a wait-for-it grin, "I was hooked."
She continued working at McLean while earning graduate degrees in psychology and experimental cognitive neuroscience at Tufts and at Harvard, where she is now an associate professor.
'It takes emotion and soul'
has always loved music, she's
only recently fully embraced that side of herself.
"When I was little, I used to sing in the closet because I was terrified that I wasn't any good," she
"But then I had this music teacher who said, 'Hey you, you should have a solo.'"
At the conservatory, she
fell in love with jazz singing, which she
said resonated with her
much more than classical arias.
If you're not feeling what you're doing, what's the point?
"And that's true in science, too.
You can scientifically break down all these parts of music, like tone and pitch, but it takes emotion and a soul to make it real.
In science, you can have all the findings in the world, but if you can't communicate them, what good are they?"
has a home studio and a Youtube channel forher music, which includes covers of popular songs along with her
has recorded two CDs.
insisted, "I'm still the kid in the closet.
I mean, I get media calls to talk about medical marijuana and I can do that, but singing?
I'm a neuroscientist.
Do I really want people hearing me sing a Sara Bareilles cover?
"It's okay to not be comfortable 100 percent of the time," Gruber
"You have to put yourself out there, to sing and be true and be you."
That is no more than what she
asks of study subjects, she
"The whole point of this is getting people to tell the truth, sometimes about illegal activity, so they have to trust you," she