AsapSCIENCE posted this video on their YouTube channel a few years ago about the effects of marijuana on the brain. It’s a great little intro to the science behind the high. Here’s what they have to say about your brain on cannabis:
For centuries, humans have been using substances to alter their state of mind. From caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol to more extreme drugs. But as the most commonly used drug in North America, where does marijuana fit in and how exactly does it affect your brain?
First, we need to understand how the brain functions. Neurons are the cells that process information in the brain. By releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters from the axon of one neuron to the dendrite of another they change the electrical charge of the receiving neuron consequently exciting or inhibiting it. If excited, the signal is passed on. Though it sounds simple these signals work together and the effect is quickly compounded into complex configurations within milliseconds flashing over the entire brain. This is what happens every single time you think, breathe or move.
So what exactly are the effects of marijuana on the brain? Well unlike alcohol, which contains molecules nothing like those in our body, cannabis contains molecules that resemble those produced in our very own brains: cannabinoids. Although naturally these cannabinoids circulate at much lower quantities compared to the large influx imposed by smoking, specifically the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol or THC resembles a natural transmitter called anandamide. These cannabinoids are specialized neurotransmitters released by neurons having just fired. Neurons temporarily become unresponsive after firing to prevent them from overreacting or being too dominant. This allows your brain to function in a calm and controlled manner.
But cannabinoids interrupt this approach in some parts of the brain. Instead, they remove the refractory period of neurons that are already active and can cause your thoughts, imagination, and perception to utterly magnify itself. This means, once you begin your train of thought it becomes the most significant and profound thing ever. You can’t see the big picture or even recall your last epiphany because you’re caught up in the momentum of a particular idea and your neurons keep firing until a new idea takes hold and you go off on a new tangent.
These cannabinoids also affect the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain often leading to a sense of euphoria, relaxation, pain modulation and general enhancement of an experience, though sometimes causing anxiety.
Furthermore, there are cannabinoid receptors in areas controlling short-term memory, learning, coordination, movement control and higher cognitive functions.
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