Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have published a study suggesting that brain receptors activated by marijuana can be targeted to cut stress. The scientists used a mouse model of stress in their study, where they showed that a molecule that activates the receptors could reduce anxiety-linked connections between two distinct brain areas.
This finding, published today in Neuron, could help explain why some people use marijuana when they’re anxious or under stress. It could also mean that pharmacologic treatments that increase levels of this molecule, known as “2-AG,” in the brain could regulate anxiety and depressive symptoms in people with stress-related anxiety disorders, potentially avoiding a reliance on medical marijuana or similar treatments.
When mice are exposed to acute stress, a break in an anxiety-producing connection between the amygdala and the frontal cortex caused by 2-AG temporarily disappears, causing the emergence of anxiety-related behaviors.
“The circuit between the amygdala and the frontal cortex has been shown to be stronger in individuals with certain types of anxiety disorders. As people or animals are exposed to stress and get more anxious, these two brain areas glue together, and their activity grows stronger together,” said Sachin Patel, MD, PhD, the paper’s corresponding author and director of the Division of General Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
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Original story from Vanderbilt University Medical Center