Want Night Vision? Cannabis Can Help Says New Study - Dispatch Weekly

October 28, 2016 - Reading time: 5 minutes

New research published in the open access journal eLife based on an observation that a Jamaican fisherman who smoked cannabis had the ability to see better in the dark in the 1990s has been developed, with researchers endorsing the observation that cannabis helps improve night vision.

The Study on a Jamaican Fisherman and How Cannabis Improved Sight

Pharmacologist M.E. West from the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica did a study 25 years ago examining the impact cannabis had on a fisherman’s sight in the dark.

He followed the crew of a fishing boat during the night and observed that, “it was impossible to believe that anyone could navigate a boat without compass and without light.”

He added, “I was then convinced that the man who had taken the rum extract of cannabis had far better night vision than I had, and that a subjective effect was not responsible.”

The Study Using Tadpoles

Taking the old study under consideration, the researchers applied a synthetic cannabinoid to the eye tissues of tadpoles from an African toad.

They found that the cannabinoid made retinal cells sensitive to light, which in turn increased the speed at which eyes responded to dim stimulus.

Applying the cannabinoid to the eye reduces the concentration of chloride ions inside the retinal ganglion cells, which makes eyes more reactive and sensitive to light.

Neurologist Ed Ruthazer, of the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University, told the Montreal Gazette, “We didn’t believe what we were seeing — exactly the opposite of what we expected.”

“The cannabinoids were increasing the excitability of cells in the eye that connects to the brain.”

Tadpoles given Cannabinoids Had Greater Sensitivity to Light

The researcher Lois Miraucourt from the Montreal Neurological Institute and his colleagues did another set of experiments, putting tadpoles in a petri dish, observing them with video-tracking software to measure how often the tadpoles avoided dark pots.

Tadpoles given the cannabinoid avoided more dots than untreated ones showing that the cannabinoid improved tadpole sensitivity to light in dark environments.

Previous Studies on Cannabis and Sight

Last year on ResearchGate, a site for science researchers, there was a post by a blind Harvard University student called “Mending The Mirror,” that suggested that marijuana:

“Gives me some access to vision by stimulating the endocannabinoid system found in the retina and brain. I would like to know if marijuana has improved the vision of others with retinal blinding diseases.” He was searching for other science collaborators for a project.

A 2014 study in rats by Pedro Lax of Alicante, Spain found the drug protects against degeneration of the retina as it preserved the structure of the eye that responds to light, specifically the cones and rods.

What is the Impact of these Findings?

Ruthazer and the researchers found that cannabinoids can have an impact in brain signaling, but further investigation needs to be conducted to see how this may apply to humans.

The next step would be testing the signaling mechanism in mice and human retinas grown or cultured from stem cells.

The study can be used to further information and research done on diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma, which causes blindness.

Do you think that cannabinoids were responsible for the results seen? Would you be willing to take them if it improved vision?

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.