January 15, 2020

An article published in Newsweek January 15, 2020, describes the work of study co-author Sachin Patel, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Division of General Psychiatry. 

From the article: Scientists have identified a molecule the brain that may help to protect the body from anxiety, and could help explain people's use of marijuana in times of stress.

In a study conducted in mice and published in Neuronresearchers looked at the molecule 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). This molecule is involved in a connection between the amygdala and frontal cortex. These parts of the brain are responsible for regulating emotions, memory and empathy, among other things.

Normally, 2-AG maintains a break in a connection between the two regions. However, the break appears to disappear in moments of stress, allowing the two parts of the brain to "glue" together, say researchers. In the mouse subjects, this was linked to a spike in anxiety-related behaviors.

2-AG and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis, both target the same receptor. While the paper did not directly look at the effect of marijuana on the brain, the findings may help explain why people turn to the drug when stressed.

"These findings may help clarify—at a mechanistic level—why many people report using cannabis to cope with stress and anxiety, specifically if they have a deficiency in their own production of these molecules," study co-author Sachin Patel, from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Tennessee, told Newsweek. "But this is just a theory at this point," he added.

Continue reading the article at https://www.newsweek.com/marijuana-anxiety-stress-mice-1482031