Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How marijuana impairs memory

Date:
March 1, 2012
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
A major downside of the medical use of marijuana is the drug's ill effects on working memory, the ability to transiently hold and process information for reasoning, comprehension and learning. Researchers provide new insight into the source of those memory lapses. The answer comes as quite a surprise: Marijuana's major psychoactive ingredient (THC) impairs memory independently of its direct effects on neurons.

Marijuana. A major downside of the medical use of marijuana is the drug's ill effects on working memory, the ability to transiently hold and process information for reasoning, comprehension and learning. Researchers now provide new insight into the source of those memory lapses.
Credit: Katrina Cooper / Fotolia

A major downside of the medical use of marijuana is the drug's ill effects on working memory, the ability to transiently hold and process information for reasoning, comprehension and learning. Researchers reporting in the March 2 print issue of the Cell Press journal Cell provide new insight into the source of those memory lapses. The answer comes as quite a surprise: Marijuana's major psychoactive ingredient (THC) impairs memory independently of its direct effects on neurons. The side effects stem instead from the drug's action on astroglia, passive support cells long believed to play second fiddle to active neurons.

The findings offer important new insight into the brain and raise the possibility that marijuana's benefits for the treatment of pain, seizures and other ailments might some day be attained without hurting memory, the researchers say.

With these experiments in mice, "we have found that the starting point for this phenomenon -- the effect of marijuana on working memory -- is the astroglial cells," said Giovanni Marsicano of INSERM in France.

"This is the first direct evidence that astrocytes modulate working memory," added Xia Zhang of the University of Ottawa in Canada.

The new findings aren't the first to suggest astroglia had been given short shrift. Astroglial cells (also known as astrocytes) have been viewed as cells that support, protect and feed neurons for the last 100 to 150 years, Marsicano explained. Over the last decade, evidence has accumulated that these cells play a more active role in forging the connections from one neuron to another.

The researchers didn't set out to discover how marijuana causes its cognitive side effects. Rather, they wanted to learn why receptors that respond to both THC and signals naturally produced in the brain are found on astroglial cells. These cannabinoid type-1 (CB1R) receptors are very abundant in the brain, primarily on neurons of various types.

Zhang and Marsicano now show that mice lacking CB1Rs only on astroglial cells of the brain are protected from the impairments to spatial working memory that usually follow a dose of THC. In contrast, animals lacking CB1Rs in neurons still suffer the usual lapses. Given that different cell types express different variants of CB1Rs, there might be a way to therapeutically activate the receptors on neurons while leaving the astroglial cells out, Marsicano said.

"The study shows that one of the most common effects of cannabinoid intoxication is due to activation of astroglial CB1Rs," the researchers wrote.

The findings further suggest that astrocytes might be playing unexpected roles in other forms of memory in addition to spatial working memory, Zhang said.

The researchers hope to explore the activities of endogenous endocannabinoids, which naturally trigger CB1Rs, on astroglial and other cells. The endocannabinoid system is involved in appetite, pain, mood, memory and many other functions. "Just about any physiological function you can think of in the body, it's likely at some point endocannabinoids are involved," Marsicano said.

And that means an understanding of how those natural signaling molecules act on astroglial and other cells could have a real impact. For instance, Zhang said, "we may find a way to deal with working memory problems in Alzheimer's."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jing Han, Philip Kesner, Mathilde Metna-Laurent, Tingting Duan, Lin Xu, Francois Georges, Muriel Koehl, Djoher Nora Abrous, Juan Mendizabal-Zubiaga, Pedro Grandes, Qingsong Liu, Guang Bai, Wei Wang, Lize Xiong, Wei Ren, Giovanni Marsicanosend email, Xia Zhang. Acute Cannabinoids Impair Working Memory through Astroglial CB1 Receptor Modulation of Hippocampal LTD. Cell, 2012 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.01.037

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "How marijuana impairs memory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301143424.htm>.
Cell Press. (2012, March 1). How marijuana impairs memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301143424.htm
Cell Press. "How marijuana impairs memory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301143424.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. 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