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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2012, Article ID 137071, 7 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1100/2012/137071
Research Article

Assessing Topographical Orientation Skills in Cannabis Users

1Dipartimento di Psicologia, “Sapienza” Università di Roma, 00185 Rome, Italy
2Sezione di Neuropsicologia, IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia, 00179 Rome, Italy
3Departments of Psychology and Clinical Neurosciences and Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4

Received 12 October 2011; Accepted 17 November 2011

Academic Editors: S. Borgwardt and C. Miniussi

Copyright © 2012 Liana Palermo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

The long-term effects of cannabis on human cognition are still unclear, but, considering that cannabis is a widely used substance and, overall, its potential use in therapeutic interventions, it is important to evaluate them. We hypothesize that the discrepancies among studies could be attributed to the specific cognitive function investigated and that skills subserved by the hippocampus, such as the spatial orientation abilities and, specifically, the ability to form and use cognitive maps, should be more compromised than others. Indeed it has been showed that cannabis users have a reduced hippocampus and that the hippocampus is the brain region in which cannabis has the greatest effect since it contains the highest concentration of cannabinoid receptors. To test this hypothesis we asked 15 heavy cannabis users and 19 nonusers to perform a virtual navigational test, the CMT, that assesses the ability to form and use cognitive maps. We found that using cannabis has no effect on these hippocampus-dependent orientation skills. We discuss the implications of our findings and how they relate to evidence reported in the literature that the intervention of functional reorganization mechanisms in cannabis user allows them to cope with the cognitive demands of navigational tasks.