Every person is different and therefore the effects they feel after consuming cannabis are different too. For some, marijuana is a lovely getaway from reality; for others, it’s nothing more than a source of side effects like paranoia, cognitive problems or an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.
Until now, it wasn’t clear as to which specific regions of the brain were responsible for these highly divergent effects of cannabis. However, a new study — led by Steven Laviolette, Ph.D., Professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Christopher Norris, a postdoctoral fellow — reveals critical new insights into how marijuana can produce such highly diverse psychological effects in different individuals.
The researchers wrote in their study that translational rodent research helped them identify specific target regions in the brain that ‘apparently’ independently control rewarding, addictive properties of marijuana versus the psychiatric side-effects associated with its consumption.
What exactly did the study find?
The researchers noted that THC — the psychoactive chemical in marijuana — produced highly rewarding effects in the front-most part of an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. Furthermore, it was seen, the cannabinoid amplified the addictive properties of opioid drugs such as morphine and “increased reward-related activity patterns in the neurons”.
On the other hand, THC in the posterior area of the nucleus accumbens region produced highly adverse effects which included schizophrenia-related emotional and cognitive symptoms, and patterns of neuron activity similar to those found in people suffering from this serious mental illness.
The researchers concluded: “Since the reward and aversion are produced by anatomically distinct regions, the different effects experienced by individuals is likely because of genetic variation leading to differential sensitivity of each regions.”
Here’s the link to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports