Study shows how cannabis controls anxiety in the brain

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Science has figured out why cannabis is valuable at controlling panic and stress

As the medical qualities of the cannabis plant are more popular and people consider marijuana for an alternative treatment, there are some health conditions, such as anxiety, that are known to be treated successfully by cannabis. One of the things that are yet to be understood is the exact mechanism that makes cannabis so effective. However, based on a recent discovery, a certain regulator between two sides of the brain might be the place in which marijuana helps the body handle an anxiety disorder.

The study was conducted by Vanderbilt University and the researchers were interested in a connection that functions as some sort of bridge between the amygdala and the frontal cortex, which is presumably the culprit of causing stress-anxiety episodes. Specifically, the amygdala plays an important role in regulating one’s feelings, mainly related to fear. And on the other side of that connection, there is the frontal cortex that has many functions, but they revolve around controlling impulses, social behavior, memory and problem-solving.

This link has been discovered to be stronger in 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 Dr. Sachin Patel, co-author of the study.

Through the endocannabinoid system, the body seems to have a built-in network ready to respond to marijuana. One element part of this system is a molecule that acts directly on how both the amygdala and frontal cortex interact with each other. The molecule is 2-AG and through experiments, scientists could break these connections in mice, relieving them from anxiety. “We might predict there’s a collapse in the endocannabinoid system, which includes 2-AG, in the patients that go on to develop a disorder,” explained Dr. Patel.