Surprising Studies on Cannabinoids & Dementia- Part 1 of 5

Alzheimer’s affects one in eight people over 65, and there have been few successes at treating or preventing it. This study suggests that exciting the brain’s cannabinoid receptors may slow brain degradation and dementia.

Findings: A THC-like synthetic drug can improve memory in animals

Study: The Cannabinoid Receptor Agonist WIN 55,212-2 Regulates Glutamate Transmission in Rat Cerebral Cortex: an In Vivo and In Vitro Study (2008)

Location: Ohio State University


In 2008, the most up-to-date research on rats indicated that at least three receptors in the brain are activated by a synthetic drug similar to marijuana. These receptors are proteins within the brain’s endocannabinoid system, which is involved in memory as well as physiological processes associated with appetite, mood and pain response.

An interesting finding of this research was that receptors in this system can influence brain inflammation and the production of new neurons, or brain cells. The researchers determined that the synthetic drug WIN acts on receptors CB1 and CB2, leading to the generation of new brain cells, or neurogenesis. Those results led the scientists to speculate that the combination of lowered inflammation and neurogenesis is the reason the rats’ memory improved after treatment with WIN.

It appears that a safe, legal substance that mimics those important properties of marijuana can work on receptors in the brain to prevent memory impairments in aging.

Unfortunately, the study also found that once memory impairment is evident, the treatment is not effective. Reducing inflammation and preserving or generating neurons must occur before the memory loss is obvious.

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