Research Explains How Marijuana Effects Brain

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It is well known to researchers that marijuana has an effect on the brain by working on its cannabinoid receptors. However, exactly how pot produces its mood-altering effects within the brain has remained a mystery. Not anymore.

Research out of Canada has identified a critical brain pathway responsible for the effects of marijuana and how the brain processes emotional information. The findings could also help explain the possible link between marijuana and schizophrenia.

Medical News Today writes:

Steven Laviolette at The University of Western Ontario and his team at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry discovered that activating cannabinoid receptors directly in a region of the brain called the amygdala, can strongly influence the significance of emotional information and memory processes. It also dramatically increased the activity patterns of neurons in a connected region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, controlling both how the brain perceived the emotional significance of incoming sensory information, and the strength of memories associated with these emotional experiences.

"These findings are of great clinical relevance given recent evidence suggesting that exposure to marijuana during adolescence can increase the likelihood of developing schizophrenia later in life," said Laviolette, an associate professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. "We know there are abnormalities in both the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in patients who have schizophrenia, and we now know these same brain areas are critical to the effects of marijuana and other cannabinoid drugs on emotional processing."

Laviolette also explained the paranoia that often accompanies marijuana use, saying the cannabinoid system can distort the emotional relevance of incoming sensory information.

The findings are published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

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