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Marijuana and the Human Brain

The chemistry of emotions

Mechoulam regrets that more has not been done in the therapeutic application of THC. In a 1986 interview with the International Journal of the Addictions, he said that, "Knowing what I know today, I would have worked more on the therapeutic aspects of cannabis. This area apparently needs a major push that is has not had up till now, particularly given that it has a therapeutic potential. One of the reasons that it has not been pushed was that most pharmaceutical companies years ago were afraid to get into that field. Companies were 'burnt' working on amphetamines and LSD. . . . They are afraid of notoriety."

Clearly, cannabis acts on coordination of movement by way of the receptors in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, and on memory by way of the receptors in the limbic system's hippocampus, which "gates" information during memory consolidation. Mechoulam believes that in humans these actions "are rather marginal."

"Cannabis," he states, "is used . . . for its actions on mood and emotion." The key to understanding the reason for the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the human brain lies in understanding the role of the receptors in the limbic system, which has a central role in the mechanisms which govern behavior and emotions.

The limbic system coordinates activities between the visceral base-brain and the rest of the nervous system. "We know next to nothing on the chemistry of emotions," Mechoulam instructs. It is his hope that future research on the role of cannabinoid receptors in the brain will shed light on this new area of investigation and reflection.

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