Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Marijuana like chemicals in the brain calm neurons

"David Prince, MD, the Edward F. and Irene Thiele Pimley Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and his colleagues found that a group of neurons that act as information gatekeepers in the brain's major information processing center, called the cerebral cortex, release cannabinoids that quiet their own activity. This form of self-inhibition is a novel way for neurons to regulate their own ability to send messages to their neighbors. Tetrahydrocannabinol from marijuana may work its brain-altering magic by binding to these same cells.

'Marijuana is a major drug of abuse with actions in the brain that aren't entirely known. Now we understand one piece of the puzzle,' Prince said. The work of Prince and his colleagues John R. Huguenard, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences, and Alberto Bacci, PhD, staff research associate, is published in the Sept. 16 issue of Nature.

The cells under scrutiny lie in the cerebral cortex. This region processes information from the eyes, ears, skin and other sense organs, regulates movement and performs complex functions such as those involved in thinking, learning and emotions. The cortex contains two major types of nerve cells: pyramidal neurons that excite both local and more distant neighbors, and inhibitory interneurons that act as local dimming switches, shutting down the activity of nearby brain cells. The inhibitory interneurons prevent the brain from taking in and responding to every thought, sight or sound it encounters. They also protect against runaway excitation such as that seen in epilepsy."

.......

However, because the interneurons inhibit cells that have such wide-ranging effects, it's no surprise that the drug alters how people perceive the world around them. "A loss of inhibition in pyramidal cells could produce changes in perception, in motor function and in everything the cerebral cortex does," he said.

The Stanford team hopes that by studying how these receptors work, researchers may learn how to make drugs that selectively bind and block subtypes of cannabinoid receptors on one type of cell but not another. This may be one way to harness the medically useful aspect of marijuana without causing brain-altering side effects.

According to Prince, such drugs could also be useful in treating epilepsy. Pyramidal cells are among those that fire out of control during a seizure. One reason these cells fire so rapidly may be that interneurons get shut down. A drug that blocks cannabinoid receptors on some types of inhibitory interneurons might allow them to continue quieting the pyramidal cells during periods of intense activity.
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