Chronic on tasks given to them compared to

Topic: PsychologyDevelopmental Theories
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Last updated: September 6, 2019

Chronic use of cannabis has been shown to be linked with impairments in cognitive functioning as suggested by Solowij and Pesa (2010). Furthermore, Gogtay, et al. (2004) mapping of the human brain has shown that grey matter development occurs up until the age of 21especially within the prefrontal cortex. In addition to this a study by Wesley, Lile, Hanlon and Porrino (2015) showed that long term cannabis users had less activity in their prefrontal cortex when shown emotional contents. A study by Fontes, et al. (2011) hypothesised that chronic cannabis users who started before age 15 would perform worse on tasks given to them compared to those who started after 15.

The study consisted of 148 participants in three groups; an early onset group of chronic users under 15; a late onset group of chronic users over 15 and a control group who hadn’t used cannabis in the last three months and no more than five times thought out their life. The groups were compared based on characteristics. Years of education, age and IQ were all matched the only difference was found in the gender as there were more males in the early onset group and late onset group compared to the control group.The participants were given tasks to assess their executive functioning skills. The tasks included a Stroop test to assess their ability to think about multiple topics. The Wisconsin card sorting test to measure their ability to generalise.

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The Frontal Assessment Battery- FAB- to test their mental processes. A vocabulary and block design (WAIS-R) to determine their IQ. Before taking the tests participants were asked to abstain from cannabis. the early onset users had abstained for an average of 4.1 days and the late onset users had abstained for an average of 3.8 days.Overall the results didn’t show a drastic difference between the early onset group and late onset group between their average Stroop test results, Wisconsin card sorting test or the WAIS-R test.

The only significant difference was found in the FAB test in which the early onset group did worse than both the late onset group and the control group. Despite this a significant difference was found between the early onset group and control group on every single test . This implies that chronic cannabis use from an earlier age is more likely to result in impaired executive functions compared to that of a controls. Furthermore the early onset participants tended to make more simple mistakes than that of the late onset and control groups and didn’t complete all of the Wisconsin card sorting test.To conclude, we can accept the hypothesis as the results showed us that although there was no significant difference between chronic early onset users and late onset users there was between early onset users and the control group. From this we can infer that cannabis use from adolescence has a negative effect on executive functioning. Similar studies have provided similar results with some showing an even greater difference such as a study by Ehrenreich, et al (1998) that suggested starting age of cannabis use significantly effects reaction times when doing visual tasks. 

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