What is THC and how does THC work in the brain? The human brain is an incredible, powerful organ. It can make decisions, solve problems, and deal with complex emotions like love and sorrow. But the brain is also fragile; it’s susceptible to injury from accidents or illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease. That’s why it needs protection — which means understanding how the brain works so you can protect it better.
The Brain Is Highly Adaptable
When you’re born, your nervous system starts primitive and simple but quickly becomes more complicated as new connections form in response to changes in the environment. Similarly, if one part of the brain gets injured by accident or illness, the other parts can often adapt to take over for it.
The Brain Is Just Like a Muscle
Your brain has 100 billion neurons which are connected in an intricate network of circuits that allow you to think, feel, move, see, remember — everything that makes you who are. When your brain is healthy, this network functions well with balanced communication between the different areas of the brain. But when there’s damage to one area of the brain due to illness or injury, some signals get blocked and others become more powerful than normal which leads to imbalances in brain function.
It’s similar to having your muscles injured; when you injure one muscle, the other ones can sometimes take over for it by contracting more vigorously than normal, which leads to imbalances in muscle strength.
What is THC?
THC is the active component in cannabis. How does THC work in the brain? It gets people high by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These are abundant throughout limbic regions of the brain that control coordination, cognition, mood, motivation, and memory. Other neurotransmitters bind to these receptors but they don’t activate them as powerfully as THC does.
The cannabinoid receptor has two subtypes: CB1 & CB2. They are distributed oppositely in the nervous system – CB1 is mainly found on presynaptic neurons (inhibitory) while CB2 is found primarily on postsynaptic neurons (excitatory). The primary difference between CB1 and CB2 is their signal transduction mechanisms. When cannabinoids or THC bind with either one of these receptor subtypes, it can inhibit or activate various types of cellular processes.
What are Cannabinoid Receptors?
Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout your body but they are especially abundant in areas of the brain responsible for memory, coordination, pleasure, cognition, etc. How does THC work in the brain? When THC attaches to these receptors, it boosts signal strength which may help explain why people feel high after smoking cannabis. By contrast, anandamide gets weaker signals because it doesn’t activate cannabinoid receptors as powerfully as THC does. Understanding how cannabinoids function is important for understanding all their therapeutic benefits & side effects too.
The Anandamide Receptor (CB1)
THC attaches to CB1 receptors in the brain which help regulate memory, pleasure, coordination, and time perception. When this happens, THC can interfere with communication between neurons because it builds up the signal in one area leading to reduced communication among other areas which results in impairment of motor skills, loss of concentration, and altered sense of time among others. This is how people get high when they smoke cannabis. These effects are caused by an increase in CB1 activity throughout the brain that disrupts its normal communication patterns — but only for a limited period of time. There’s no evidence that marijuana permanently changes your brain structure or function.
The Anandamide Receptor (CB2)
THC also binds with CB2 receptors throughout your body which can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and slow down the release of certain immune cells in response to injury or illness. There is evidence that when THC attaches with CB1 & CB2 receptors, it influences memory but there’s no evidence that smoking marijuana damages memory. Furthermore, different cannabinoids in cannabis can interact with each other to produce synergistic effects too complicated to explain here — known as the entourage effect. By understanding these interactions better through scientific research, we could use THC and other cannabinoids for therapeutic purposes without harmful side effects.
How Does THC Work in the Brain
THC acts by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain — specifically to CB1 and CB2 receptor subtypes. This activates various processes throughout the nervous system that can cause people to get “high” for a temporary period before returning to normal.