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How Cannabis Affects Memory: Cannabinoids Induce Memory Loss Through the Decrease in Energy of the Neurons

Friday, November 11, 2016 15:24
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It has been known for some time that the extracts of the Cannabis plant, just like synthetic cannabinoids and those produced by the brain itself, join up with type 1 (CB1) cannabinoid receptors located in the nerve endings of the neurons, and inhibit the release of chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the communication areas between the nerve cells.

The knowledge about the way cannabinoids work has been expanded in recent years when it was shown that the CB1 receptor is also located in and functions in the mitochondria of the neurons; mitochondria are the organelles responsible for producing cell energy.

The bracts surrounding a cluster of Cannabis sativa flowers are coated with cannabinoid-laden trichomes

Credit: Psychonaught
A new piece of research, which has been published in the online version of the journal Nature, has now gone a step further on discovering that the amnesia caused by cannabinoids needs the activation of the CB1 cannabinoid receptors located in the mitochondria of the hippocampus, the brain structure involved in memory formation.

To obtain the results of this research, led by Dr Giovanni Marsicano of the University of Bordeaux, the contribution of the following doctors was crucial: Nagore Puente, Leire Reguero, Izaskun Elezgarai and Pedro Grandes; they are neuroscientists in the Department of Neurosciences of the UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Medicine and Nursing and of the Achucarro Basque Center for Neuroscience and they also participated in a previous discovery about the location and functioning of the CB1 receptor in the mitochondria. In this new piece of research, the researchers used a broad range of cutting-edge experimental techniques and saw that the genetic elimination of the CB1 receptor from the mitochondria of the hippocampus prevents memory loss, the reduction in mitochondrial movement and the decrease in neural communication induced by the cannabinoids.

This research also revealed that the amnesia caused by cannabinoids and the related cell processes are linked to an acute alteration in bioenergetic mitochondrial activity owing to the direct activation of the CB1 receptors in the mitrochondria. This activation leads to the inhibiting of the cannabinoid signalling cascade inside the mitochondria and cell respiration diminishes as a result. This reduction in cell respiration through cannabinoids is not restricted to the brain as a similar phenomenon occurs in skeletal and cardiac muscle, as has recently been published in another piece of research by the group of Dr Grandes.

“Mitochondrial malfunctioning could have serious consequences for the brain. For example, chronic mitochondrial dysfunction is involved in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, strokes or disorders associated with ageing. However, the involvement of the acute variation in mitochondrial activity in higher brain functions, such as memory, was unknown,” pointed out Dr Grandes. So this research has revealed that the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the mitochondria regulate the memory processes by modulating mitochondrial energy metabolism.

Pedro Grandes, Izaskun Elezgarai, Leire Reguero and Nagore Puente
Credit: University of The Basque Country

Furthermore, although cannabinoid by-products have a well-known therapeutic potential, their use is limited by the significant adverse effects that emerge when acting on CB1 receptors, including memory loss. The results of this research suggest that “a selective intervention on specific CB1 cannabinoid receptors located in the brain in certain specific neurone compartments could be of interest with a view to developing new therapeutic tools based on the most effective and safest cannabinoids in the treatment of certain brain diseases,” explained Dr Grandes.

 ”This research is the result of 6 years’ work in which 28 researchers have participated. In our case it would not have been possible without the funding received from the UPV/EHU, the Basque Government and Spanish institutions, which have placed their trust in us even during these years of tremendous cutbacks for research; this is something I recognise and which I am grateful for,” concluded Pedro Grandes.

Pedro Grandes has recently been Visiting Professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, CUniversity of The Basque Countryanada, where he has been doing research work and teaching students of medicine and post-graduate students.


Contacts and sources:
Matxalen Sotillo

University of The Basque Country


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Total 9 comments
  • dianecee

    I’m not in favor of “legalizing” marijuana because government has no place in that aspect of our lives. If people want to smoke some doobe then why don’t they just grow their own? We do not need to ask anyone if we can smoke. Although, all that crack, coke, opiates and other such addictive substances that our own government has been distributing throughout our nation should be illegal and the distributors jailed for attempted destruction of our nation.

  • Deputy Dawg

    These findings are totally based on junk science. They were out to prove a theory not examine all the variables which could disprove or work against their ridiculous hypothesis. It’s like the scientists who claim man’s carbon footprint is responsible for global warming and climate change. Sure climate change is real, but the rest of their narrative is pure malarkey. Look science is not always based on fact, it is often based on nothing more than unproven theory. Because we are discussing the medical benefits let’s look to the medical field for a great example of how science is given credibility when it is not always warranted. If medicine were actually as accurate and dependable as society too often believes then why are medical doctors with all today’s remarkable technology the third leading cause of premature death in the United States? More times than not those in science like to climb up on a pedestal. If we examine how many finding have been forged or later disproven we can see it’s really all about self elevation. Professional arrogance is a casualty of human pride that hinders knowledge by swaying alternative considerations. We as human being like so much to be right. The intellectually ambitious strive to be raised in importance rather then to wait until all the horses in this race have crossed the finish line.

    Until all the facts come in I wouldn’t give too much credibility to these type of targeted individual studies. Until then I can help thinking about my cousin B N, a physicist who smoked pot every single day of his adult life. Obviously these so called scientists have missed or added something into the mix that does not belong. Amazingly enough science has a long and well established track record of being totally wrong! In truth they are wrong far more than they are right! If what we seek is solid truth, that rare commodity can only found in God’s Word.

    A Student of the Word


    Great theory for use in getting government funding but there are no Facts presented,no trials,no control subjects,no analysis of results,no clinical results ! This is all hyperbole to deceive the reader ! Since when has amnesia been identified as a side effect of marijuana use ? Short term memory loss is not proven either ! What a crock of $#!+ !

    • Rockledge

      My memory sucks when I am high ( my short term memory sucks when I am not as well, and always has).

      But my memory also sucks when I am groggy from just waking up or when I use to drink my memory was bad while I was drinking.

      Smoking pot never seemed to effect my memory when I was not high. Of course , part of the point of getting high is to be relaxed and in a state of mental limbo so as to rejuvenate a little, so obviously temporarily suspending memory functions is part of the purpose.

      And in reality, I love to read when I get high, and seem to always remember enough about what I was reading ( normally books ) to pick up where I left off easily.

  • Boo

    Be prepared to pay for your own rehabilitation, out of your own pocket…and do whatever damage you deem fit to yourself. You want to play on dangerous ground it’s your life, or lack thereof. I’ve seen to many ruined souls who’ve abused themselves to buy into the nonsense drugs don’t do you any harm. Even alcohol takes its fair share of victims.

    • Deputy Dawg

      Everything done in excess can have negative attributes. Although I personally do not advocate the recreational use of marijuana, I believe that if used in moderation cannabis is far less dangerous than alcohol for instance. Medical pot use it is not as destructive to the human body as all the pharmaceutical alternatives.

    • Rockledge

      Like I say, as someone who has smoked pot on and off , at times heavily, for decades, your comment is quite puzzling to me. I have never known anyone who needed any kind of physical or mental rehabilitation from smoking some dope.

      I would imagine someone who smokes insane amounts of it who already has some type of emotional disturbance or mental issues might need some care, but chances are those in that condition are going to need medical help at some point in their lives anyway.

      I suspect you have no real world experience and merely rely on anecdotal info.
      The movie Reefer Madness is fiction, for your information.

  • Rockledge

    I at one time was a heavy pot smoker ( in my mid/late 20s).
    I now smoke about once a week, I have adverse reactions if I smoke pot more often than that ( not bad reactions, just unpleasant).
    I am among the rare, everyone I know who smokes reefer daily seem to have no problems with it, and in reality seem to be more physically active than those I know in my age group who do not ( I am old, and it seems smoking dope masks the unpleasant aches and pains of age).
    I use it once a week for arthritis, it is the one night a week I get a good solid sleep.

    But, my IQ measured about 7 points higher during tests after I had been a chronic smoker than it did prior.

    I have a friend who is 77, who just gave up smoking pot this past year. The guy is healthy , still works, and is still very active. He is also sharp as a tack, he has a better memory than I have ever had at any time in my life.
    I have another friend who is in his mid 60s and is a daily smoker. The guy has been a working musician his entire life, and knows how to play more songs from memory than anyone I have ever met. Which, I know a lot of musicians having spent my life being one as well.
    And interestingly enough, most of the recreational drug users I have known have not been musicians, they have been sports fans.

    I don’t consider smoking pot to be entirely harmless and like anything , including food and drink, to excess is likely harmful.

    How harmful? Of all the people I have known personally who have died none of them to have died from the side effects of smoking dope.

  • robotlion

    I think I’ve read this before.. :smile:

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