Babies exposed to cannabis in the womb show a significant improvement in their ability to track moving objects at age four, according to a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Scientific Reports.
“We were surprised with this initial finding,” says Ben Thompson, a professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science. “It shows that marijuana and alcohol can have quite an impact on a fundamental aspect of the visual processing happening in our brains.”
For the study, researchers tested higher-level visual processing in a group of 4 year-old children who were exposed to different combinations of marijuana, alcohol, methyl amphetamines, or nicotine while in the womb, compared with a non-exposed control group. Drug exposure was confirmed objectively by analyzing each baby’s meconium (which is a dark green substance forming the first feces of a newborn).
Results showed exposure to cannabis improved global motion perception, a measure of processing within the brain’s dorsal visual pathway which is responsible for motion processing and visual-motor control. In contrast, exposure to alcohol had a negative effect. Nicotine and methamphetamine had no effect on vision compared with the control group.
The full study can be found by clicking here.
This, of course, isn’t the first study to show that it may be beneficial for an infant to have cannabis in their system that they obtained via the womb; a 2-year study published in the journal Pediatrics, which examined nearly 3,000 infant participants, found that babies born with cannabis in their system are drastically less likely to suffer from early mortality.