From the munchies to the giggles to paranoia, smoking marijuana causes widespread changes in the brain. Now researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine are a step closer to understanding how the drugs active ingredients - tetrahydrocannabinol and related compounds, called cannabinoids - may exert their effects.
David Prince, MD, the Edward F. and Irene Thiele Pimley Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and his colleagues found that a group of neurons that act as information gatekeepers in the brains major information processing center, called the cerebral cortex, release cannabinoids that quiet their own activity. This form of self-inhibition is a novel way for neurons to regulate their own ability to send messages to their neighbors. Tetrahydrocannabinol from marijuana may work its brain-altering magic by binding to these same cells.
"Marijuana is a major drug of abuse with actions in the brain that arent entirely known. Now we understand one piece of the puzzle," Prince said. The work of Prince and his colleagues John R. Huguenard, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences, and Alberto Bacci, PhD, staff research associate, is published in the Sept. 16 issue of Nature.
Mitzi Baker | EurekAlert!
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