Determining the effects of cannabis consumption on sensory, motor, and cognitive function.

Primary Supervisor, Brian Dalton

Supervisory team:  Chris McNeil  and Phil Ainslie

Investigating how different concentrations of THC and CBD affect sensory, motor, and cognitive function over the adult lifespan in males and females


Passage of the Cannabis Act in October 2018 provides Canadians lawful access to cannabis for medicinal purposes, without the previously required medical documentation. With increased access and promotion of cannabinoids to treat a variety of conditions (e.g., as an alternative to opioids for pain relief, as an anti-inflammatory drug, as a treatment for anxiety, etc.) but only limited or unclear scientific evidence, there is a pressing need to evaluate the acute effects of cannabis use. All human movement involves the integration of sensory, motor, and cognitive information, so insight into the effects of cannabis on these fundamental processes is indeed critical to ensure safe and effective usage. The rate of cannabis use is increasing in older adults quicker than any other age group; however, if cannabis were to impair the neural control of movement and balance, the increased risk of falling may outweigh the benefits of cannabis use as falls lead to catastrophic outcomes for older adults. There are two primary compounds in cannabis, THC and CBD, and, while considerable research is still required, the compounds likely cause different physiological effects and impairments to overall human function. The overall aim of the proposed research is to investigate how different concentrations of THC and CBD affect sensory, motor, and cognitive function over the adult lifespan in males and females. The research initiative will involve an integrative neurophysiological approach focusing on identifying factors within the brain, spinal cord and muscle that may be influenced by cannabis use and ultimately impacting movement and balance control.

About the Stober PhD Fellow

Paige Copeland

M.Sc., Health and Exercise Science, Neuromuscular Physiology | University of British Columbia | 2021
Thesis: The Effect of 24hrs of Sleep Deprivation on Standing Balance and Vestibular Function”
B.HK., Clinical Exercise Physiology  | University of British Columbia | 2019

Hometown: Armstrong, british columbia, Canada

“I would like to extend my appreciation to the Stober Foundation for providing me the opportunity to not only further my own knowledge, but to be involved in important research taking place in the Okanagan. As a first-generation university student, I never imagined being able to pursue academia to this degree. The support from the Stober Foundation is allowing me to continue following my passion for learning, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

“Over the past few years, I have become familiar with the literature surrounding cannabis-related research and, while learning a great deal, I have only been left with more questions. The cannabis research field is an area with an abundance of opportunities to progress our knowledge related to human performance and overall function. This project will allow me to conduct research under the supervision of Dr. Brian Dalton and Dr. Chris McNeil, both experts in neuromuscular physiology, and complete a PhD at a world-class institution, UBC. This opportunity will provide me an optimal environment to grow and develop skills required to be an effective health-related researcher. Additionally, I believe the project, funded by the Stober Foundation, will help foster collaborative relationships with local innovators and industry partners to further our understanding of human neurophysiology as well as develop and improve the efficacy of cannabis-related products.

Over 5 million Canadians use cannabis and, despite the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada, there are still many unknowns regarding how cannabis interacts with human function. There exists a fairly good understanding of the cognitive effects associated with cannabis use, but the details around how cannabis affects motor and sensory function during everyday tasks, like standing balance, are unclear. The aims of my PhD studies are to understand how cannabis affects our motor and sensory function via our ability to maintain and control standing balance, an important aspect of daily living. I believe there is great potential for cannabis to be incorporated as a beneficial aspect of our health care system, but first we must have a more holistic understanding on the effects it can have on human body function.”

Honours & Awards

  •  Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC),  2021
  •  Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship-Doctoral, 2021
  • Killam Doctoral Scholarship, 2021
  • Stober Foundation PhD Fellowship, 2021
  • NSERC Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement, 2020
  • NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s, 2019
  • British Columbia Graduate Scholarship, 2019
  • Graduate Dean’s Entrance Scholarship, 2019
  • Valedictorian of the Faculty of Health and Social Development, 2019
  • NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award, 2018, 2019