In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists at Washington State University (WSU) have identified the intricate workings of the brain responsible for inducing the notorious “munchies” after marijuana use. The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shed light on how cannabis activates specific neurons in the hypothalamus, unraveling the mystery behind increased appetite.
For centuries, the appetite-promoting effects of cannabis have been acknowledged, but the biological mechanisms driving this phenomenon remained largely unknown. The WSU researchers exposed mice to vaporized cannabis and employed advanced calcium imaging technology to monitor changes in neuron activity, akin to a brain MRI. The results pointed to cannabis attaching to cannabinoid-1 receptors, triggering “feeding” neurons in the hypothalamus known as Agouti Related Protein neurons.
Jon Davis, an assistant professor of neuroscience at WSU, emphasized the significance of the findings, stating, “When the mice are given cannabis, neurons come on that typically are not active. There is something important happening in the hypothalamus after vapor cannabis.” In more scientific terms, the study revealed that the “pharmacological activation of CB1R attenuated inhibitory synaptic tone onto hunger-promoting Agouti Related Peptide (AgRP) neurons within the mediobasal hypothalamus.”
The study utilized vaporized whole-plant marijuana, a departure from prior research using injected THC, making the results more applicable to cannabis consumers. Importantly, the research opens avenues for developing targeted therapeutics for conditions such as anorexia and obesity.
Funded in part by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with support from alcohol-related state revenue, the study provides a comprehensive understanding of the neural processes triggered by cannabis. The collaboration between federal agencies and state funding underscores the significance of research in addressing health-related concerns.
The phenomenon of the munchies has long captivated scientists, with previous studies linking cannabis legalization to increased sales of snack products. However, recent research challenges the assumption that cannabis use leads to obesity, revealing a paradoxical association between adult-use legalization and decreased obesity levels. Additionally, a meta-analysis from the previous year found a lower likelihood of type 2 diabetes among marijuana users. The multifaceted impact of cannabis on health continues to intrigue researchers, promising further revelations in the intersection of neuroscience and cannabis-induced effects.
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