Saturday, October 22, 2005

 

Does marijuana help relieve depression by generating new brain cells?

Canadian University Research Suggests Marijuana Analogue Stimulates Brain Cell Growth

A synthetic substance similar to ones found in marijuana stimulates cell growth in regions of the brain associated with anxiety and depression, pointing the way for new treatments for these diseases, according to University of Saskatchewan medical research published today in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Xia Zhang, an associate professor in the U of S neuropsychiatry research unit, led the team that tested the effects of HU-210, a potent synthetic cannabinoid similar to a group of compounds found in marijuana. The synthetic version is about 100 times as powerful as THC, the compound responsible for the high experienced by recreational users.

The team found that rats treated with HU-210 on a regular basis showed neurogenesis – the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. This region of the brain is associated with learning and memory, as well as anxiety and depression.

The effect is the opposite of most legal and illicit drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, heroin, and cocaine.

“Most ‘drugs of abuse’ suppress neurogenesis,” Zhang says. “Only marijuana promotes neurogenesis.”

Current theory states that depression may be sparked when too few new brain cells are grown in the hippocampus. It is unclear whether anxiety is part of this process, but if true, HU-210 could offer a treatment for both mood disorders by stimulating the growth of new brain cells.


Read more at KeyQuestions.blogspot.com and at ScienceDaily.com





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