brain

Cannabinoid CB2 Receptors in Brain Reward Systems

It is well known that the brain and body contain receptors that bind to tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC) the active ingredient in marijuana and that the body naturally produces substances known as cannabinoids that bind to these receptors. There are two known cannabinoid receptors, CB1 is located on neurons in the brain and spinal cord, and CB2 is located primarily on immune cells. Prior to the present study, it was unknown whether CB2 receptors could be found on neurons in the brain and what role they might play in brain function.

This is your brain on drugs

Brain on marijuana image.

A Harvard-Northwestern study has found differences between the brains of young adult marijuana smokers and those of nonsmokers. In these composite scans, colors represent the differences — in the shape of the amygdala, top, and nucleus accumbens. Yellow indicates areas that are most different, red the least.

The process of a brain becoming addicted is similar to a driver overcorrecting a vehicle. When drugs and alcohol release unnaturally high levels of dopamine in the brain's pleasure system, oxidative stress occurs in the brain.

The National Institutes of Health has turned to neuroscientists at the nation's most "Stone Cold Sober" university for help finding ways to treat drug and alcohol addiction.

Brigham Young University professor Scott Steffensen and his collaborators have published three new scientific papers that detail the brain mechanisms involved with addictive substances. And the NIH thinks Steffensen's on the right track, as evidenced by a $2-million grant that will help fund projects in his BYU lab for the next five years.

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