With IOL’s Pearlson, TEDxHartford Talk to Highlight Marijuana, Driving Research

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What do an organizational behaviorist, real estate marketer and anti-trafficking activist have in common with a behavioral health researcher from the Institute of Living (IOL)?

For four hours on Tuesday, Dec. 3, the answer is the attention of those attending the TEDxHartford program as they share innovative and inspiring ideas from their own unique vantage points.

Dr. Godfrey Pearlson, founding director of the IOL’s Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, was tapped to participate in TEDxHartford and present his current research into the effects of marijuana on driving.

“I am excited to present on this very important topic,” says Dr. Pearlson. “We know that marijuana alters behavior, but we needed to study how much it affects people, for how long and whether or not that should keep them from getting behind the wheel. With states, including nearby Massachusetts, legalizing recreational marijuana, this research has become more imperative than ever before.”

Dr. Pearlson, who earlier this year was recognized with the Research Mentorship Award from the American Psychiatric Association Fellowship Program and American Association of Chairs of Departments of Psychiatry, started investigating the impact of marijuana use on driving several years ago with federal grants.

At that time, he launched two studies. The first, a five-year study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is focused on the impact marijuana has on the brain’s cognitive and motor functions when driving a motor vehicle. Specifically, the research is looking at changes in brain function based on doses of THC, a psychoactive chemical in marijuana, while subjects “drive” inside an MRI scanner.

The second study, requested by the National Highway and Traffic Administration, aims to determine the best way to test drivers for marijuana use on the road, much like breathalyzers are used to gauge alcohol consumption. The team is also looking at the impact of combined marijuana and alcohol use on driving.

“The work being done by Dr. Pearlson and his Olin team is revolutionary and will change our way of life as the nation slowly legalizes marijuana. His selection for this prestigious event speaks to the value of his research on society as a whole,” said Dr. John Santopietro, physician-in-chief of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network, which includes the IOL.

TEDxHartford — spawned from the innovative TED talks – is an independently organized event dedicated to the sharing of ideas. Varied video and live speeches generate discussion and connection. This year’s event is scheduled from 5-9 p.m., on Dec. 3, at Infinity Hall in Hartford. The event is sold out but will be live streamed from tedxhartford.com.

Besides Dr. Pearlson, speakers include Natalia Abrams, executive director of Student Debt Crisis; Yvette Young, coordinator of Connecticut’s Human Anti-trafficking Response Teams; Shaun Osher, founder of CORE, a boutique real estate marketing and sales company; Sarah Leathers, founder and CEO of Healing Meals Community Project; Rahkim Sabree, co-founder of An Extended Hand Inc.; Kelly Monahan, organizational behaviorist studying the future workforce; and Olivia Richman, fourth-year medical student committed to sex education.

For more information on research at the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center at Hartford HealthCare, click here.


go to nrc-iol.org.

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