It's no secret that many marijuana lovers believe that having a puff before turning on a favorite album or settling in to watch a movie can make the experience just that much better, but why is that? The answer is somewhat paradoxical, according to Dr. Ethan Russo—a cannabis researcher from Prague, who says it all has to do with how cannabis affects memory.
"One thing we know well is that THC produces short-term memory impairment…when somebody's used cannabis and they say they've lost their train of thought, that's one of the known effects," Russo told The GrowthOp.
As Russo explains, THC reduces a person's ability to focus on the big picture. This in turn allows for more focus on the finer details. And once you start zeroing in on the subtleties of a painting, song or movie you will probably understand it in a much different way.
"Altered states of consciousness can offer a different experience and, therefore, a different perspective on the source of stimulation," Russo said. "Cannabis can sharpen senses for certain activities…people say they've never 'heard it' or 'seen it' that way before."
And when speaking of visual art more specifically, cannabis may enhance the experience in other ways. Some studies have shown that consuming cannabis can improve a person's night vision, which might increase their ability to pick out details in an image.
"The retina is very rich in cannabinoid receptors," said Russo.
Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, a researcher who studies neruoaestetics—the field interested in how people perceive 'aesthetic' experiences—says that THC might also be interacting with the parts of the brain most active when a person is taking in art.
"If the work is colorful, parts of the brain that engage with color are activated," explains Dr. Chatterjee. "If there's motion, even in something abstract like a Jackson Pollock that showcases 'movement,' the motion centers in the occipital cortex are involved with that. And those perceptions differ when you're looking at something static like a Piet Mondrian."
When THC is ingested neurons in your brain begin to fire more quickly, giving you that racing mind feeling. It's possible that this encourages creative thinking, and may strengthen the affects art has on the different parts of the brain that Chatterjee discusses.
We still don't really know why cannabis makes some people feel more creative, but it doesn't seem to be some kind of placebo effect either. And while smoking up might not ensure you become the next big thing in the art world, it might just help you finally understand modern art.