Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How marijuana affects the way the brain processes emotional information

Date:
April 11, 2011
Source:
University of Western Ontario
Summary:
Drugs like marijuana act on naturally occurring receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. However, the mechanisms by which these drugs produce their sensory and mood altering effects within the brain are largely unknown. Researchers have now identified a critical brain pathway responsible for the effects of cannabinoid drugs on how the brain processes emotional information.

Drugs like marijuana act on naturally occurring receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. However, the mechanisms by which these drugs produce their sensory and mood altering effects within the brain are largely unknown. Research led by Steven Laviolette at The University of Western Ontario has now identified a critical brain pathway responsible for the effects of cannabinoid drugs on how the brain processes emotional information.

The findings, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, also help to explain the possible link between marijuana use and schizophrenia.

Laviolette 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," says 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."

Furthermore, the findings by Laviolette's laboratory identify a novel new brain pathway by which drugs acting on the cannabinoid system can distort the emotional relevance of incoming sensory information which in turn may lead to psychotic side-effects, such as paranoia, associated with heavy marijuana use. Developing pharmacological compounds, and there already are some, that block or modify this pathway could help control psychotic episodes. It could also be used to help patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who have difficulty controlling the resurgence of highly emotional events into their memory.

Laviolette's research was funded by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Western Ontario. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H. Tan, N. M. Lauzon, S. F. Bishop, N. Chi, M. Bechard, S. R. Laviolette. Cannabinoid Transmission in the Basolateral Amygdala Modulates Fear Memory Formation via Functional Inputs to the Prelimbic Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 2011; 31 (14): 5300 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4718-10.2011

Cite This Page:

University of Western Ontario. "How marijuana affects the way the brain processes emotional information." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405174833.htm>.
University of Western Ontario. (2011, April 11). How marijuana affects the way the brain processes emotional information. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405174833.htm
University of Western Ontario. "How marijuana affects the way the brain processes emotional information." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405174833.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins