Research on cannabis has shed light on its psychological effects, its use as a medical treatment, and its possible long-term effects. Marijuana isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when talking about schizophrenia research, but a new study on the substance may lead to a better level of understanding of the disorder.

Published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, the research reports that the central active constituent of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (simply known as THC) causes transient psychosis-like effects in healthy participants similar to those observed in schizophrenic patients. The mechanisms underlying the effects are not yet understood, but the study suggests that this random neural activity, termed neural noise, may be partly responsible for the psychosis-like effects of cannabis. Neural noise comprises random fluctuations within the neural networks that are not associated with a response to internal or external stimuli.

“At doses roughly equivalent to half or a single joint, delta-9-THC produced psychosis-like effects and increased neural noise in humans,” said senior author Dr. Deepak Cyril D’Souza, a professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, in statement.

First author Dr. Jose Cortes-Briones, a postdoctoral associate in psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, added: “The dose-dependent and strong positive relationship between these two findings suggest that the psychosis-like effects of cannabis may be related to neural noise, which disrupts the brain’s normal information processing.”

The researchers conducted the study with 24 participants during a three-day, double-blind, randomized experiment. If their findings are confirmed, the link between psychosis and neural noise could be helpful in explaining the biology of certain schizophrenia symptoms. A chronic mental disorder, schizophrenia is hallmarked by psychosis and currently has no cure. Understanding the specific neural functions underlying Schizophrenia’s biggest symptom could lead to more effective treatments for the disorder.

“This interesting study suggests a commonality between the effects on the brain of the major active ingredient in marijuana and symptoms of schizophrenia,” said Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry. “The impairment of cortical function by delta-9-THC could underlie some of the cognitive effects of marijuana. Not only does this finding aid our understanding of the processes underlying psychosis, it underscores an important concern in the debate surrounding medical and legalized access to marijuana.”

Marijuana has been legalized for medical use in 23 states, and recreational use in Colorad, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.

Source: Cortes-Briones J, Chaill J, Skonsnik P, Mathalon D, Williams A, Sewell R, et al. The Psychosis-like Effects of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Are Associated With Increased Cortical Noise In Healthy Humans. Biological Psychiatry. 2015.