Cannabis memory effects examined
Published: 2nd Mar 2012 09:46:19
Scientists believe they are closer to understanding how taking cannabis disrupts short-term memory.
The Canadian team from Ottawa University narrowed the effect down to a particular type of brain cell called an astrocyte.
Writing in the journal Cell, they said it might be possible to block it in medicines based on cannabis.
A UK researcher said it could reveal more about natural brain chemicals.
Cannabis floods the brain with a host of chemicals which mimic one of its own subtle signalling systems, leading to pronounced changes in mood and memory.
Scientists are trying to harness the power of these chemicals, called cannabinoids, in pharmaceuticals aimed at conditions such as multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.
The doses of cannabinoid are carefully controlled to avoid the "high" feeling.
The work by the Ottawa University researchers may shed light on how one of the best known cannabinoids, THC, acts on the brain.
Their work suggests that, when it comes to affecting memory, THC is acting not, as might be expected, on the brain's neurons, but on a brain cell called an astrocyte.
We may find a way to deal with working memory problems in Alzheimer's.”
They bred mice whose astrocytes could not be affected by THC, and found that their spatial memory was unaffected by the dose.
This discovery could help drug companies reduce the risk of unwanted side effects when using THC in their products, they suggested.
However, possibly more importantly, it could shed light on the brain's own chemical pathways, the "endocannabinoid" system.
Dr Xia Zhang, one of the researchers, said: "Just about any physiological function you can think of in the body, it's likely at some point endocannabinoids are involved."
Understanding how this system works could lead to ways to make it work better, he suggested.
"We may find a way to deal with working memory problems in Alzheimer's," he said.
Prof Heather Ashton, from the University of Newcastle, said that memory problems were an established feature of cannabis use, and understanding the mechanism behind them was "interesting".
She said: "When someone is taking cannabis, in some cases you find that they cannot even remember starting a sentence by the time they reach the end."
But she agreed that the practical benefits of such research might ultimately lie in a better understanding of the body's own endocannabinoid system, rather than the effects of cannabis itself.
At 23:35:48 in WorldA young girl offered US First Lady Michelle Obama her father's CV during questions at the White House's Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
At 23:12:26 in SportFormula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone made his first appearance in a Munich court on Thursday, accused of giving a £27.5m ($45m, 33m euros) bribe to a German banker.
At 22:51:02 in EntertainmentA village museum in East Sussex will go up against Tate Britain and the new £35m Mary Rose Museum in a contest to be named the UK's museum of the year.
At 22:42:55 in BusinessBarclays agreed to a $280m (£167m) settlement with the US Federal Housing and Finance Authority (FHFA).
At 22:30:17 in EnglandThe government says it is making "urgent inquiries" into reports Whitehall computers were used to make insulting comments about the Hillsborough disaster.
At 22:22:33 in HeadlinesRussia and the US have accused each other of failing to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine after Kiev launched raids on pro-Moscow separatists.
At 22:19:49 in SportWorld number one Rafael Nadal booked his place in the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open with a 6-3 6-3 win over Croatian Ivan Dodig.
At 22:13:15 in SportFormer Rangers, Hearts and Scotland defender Sandy Jardine has died at the age of 65.
At 22:00:20 in PoliticsThe zero-hours contract - alongside the payday loan and the bad bank - has gained a kind of totemic significance in the public imagination.
At 22:00:03 in ScotlandScottish independence would leave working people north and south of the border worse off, Ed Miliband has claimed.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Cannabis memory effects examined [Online] (Updated 2nd Mar 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1415453/Cannabis-memory-effects-examined [Accessed 25th Apr 2014]
News In Other Categories
Internet retailer Amazon reported a 32% jump in profits to $108m (£64m) in the first quarter of 2014.
A village museum in East Sussex will go up against Tate Britain and the new £35m Mary Rose Museum in a contest to be named the UK's museum of the year.
Barclays agreed to a $280m (£167m) settlement with the US Federal Housing and Finance Authority (FHFA).
The government says it is making "urgent inquiries" into reports Whitehall computers were used to make insulting comments about the Hillsborough disaster.
Scottish independence would leave working people north and south of the border worse off, Ed Miliband has claimed.
Skin grown in the laboratory can replace animals in drug and cosmetics testing, UK scientists say.