Mother Knows Best: Why Does Cannabis Stimulate "Deep Thoughts"?
A look at the science behind why THC sparks abstract thinking, free association, and those weird-ass “highdeas” that may prompt someone to ask, “What the hell was she smoking?!"
Published on August 7, 2017

Lead image via iStock Photo

Dear Mother,

Why do you all of a sudden start pondering your existence in the universe and come up with brilliant (yet probably unfeasible) ideas for solving abstract problems while stoned? What causes these random thoughts, or “highdeas,” to pop into your head when you're high?

— Deep Thoughts

Dear DT,

As almost anyone who has smoked cannabis can tell you, some of the best and most creative thoughts seem to spark in our brains when we light one up. There's just something about sitting around and smoking — whether it's by yourself as your nurse a bong or with a group of friends while you pass a joint around — that inspires some incredible thought patterns. But why? Let's take a quick dive into the science behind this to find out why THC can be the key to unlocking some of our most amazing thoughts.

Okay, so not all of our thoughts that rise up while high are great ones (that snack combo of Doritos and marshmallows was a bust!), but it's true that we do tend to have more complex and intriguing ideas when smoking the strong stuff. What's cool about THC and cannabis, in general, is that it works on different parts of your brain, so there are a few different things that are happening to your body after you take that hit.

Cannabis has been shown to impact the frontal cortex of your brain, enhancing brain activity. The frontal cortex is basically the "control panel" of our personalities and handles things like problem solving, memory, language, judgment, and more. When we smoke marijuana, it can change what and how we observe things, providing pathways for new thoughts and ideas we may not notice while sober. Perhaps when sober you struggled with how to resolve an issue with a coworker at work — none of your ideas seemed feasible. When high, you just might be able to look at the issue from other angles you hadn't considered before and come up with something innovative that gets you and your coworker on the right path.

Another thing THC does to your brain is called "hyper-priming." That's when you think of (or someone says) one word and a seemingly endless stream of loose associations is unleashed in your mind. So, if you think of the word "cake" (while sober!), your mind might then think of related words and concepts like "birthday," "sweet," "frosting," etc… But when high, when you think of "cake," your brain starts spindling out to a whole bunch of connections that may or may not make any sense when sober, but totally click in a hyper-primed brain. Studies back these theories up, emphasizing that THC hyper-primes the brain to have these freewheeling thoughts.

While hyper-priming allows you the ability to make connections between seemingly unconnected things (which is usually what causes some folks to ask, "what the heck was she smoking?!"), it also gives you the ability to think outside the box. Not all the ideas that come from a wake and bake session are going to be winners, but the ability to view a topic or concept from a variety of different angles can be useful, particularly when it comes to creative endeavors.

So, if you find yourself feeling a bit creatively blocked, or are having a hard time coming up with a solution to a problem, maybe try smoking some cannabis and thinking on it for a bit. You just might be able to see things from a different angle and come up with something unique and perfect!

— Mother

Mother Knows Best
Mother Knows Best is written by a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience with cannabis. And yes, she also happens to be a mother, just not yours. Reach her with your question at [email protected].
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