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How marijuana impairs memory
Date:3/1/2012

Zhang and Marsicano now show that mice lacking CB1Rs only on astroglial cells of the brain are protected from the impairments to spatial working memory that usually follow a dose of THC. In contrast, animals lacking CB1Rs in neurons still suffer the usual lapses. Given that different cell types express different variants of CB1Rs, there might be a way to therapeutically activate the receptors on neurons while leaving the astroglial cells out, Marsicano said.

"The study shows that one of the most common effects of cannabinoid intoxication is due to activation of astroglial CB1Rs," the researchers wrote.

The findings further suggest that astrocytes might be playing unexpected roles in other forms of memory in addition to spatial working memory, Zhang said.

The researchers hope to explore the activities of endogenous endocannabinoids, which naturally trigger CB1Rs, on astroglial and other cells. The endocannabinoid system is involved in appetite, pain, mood, memory and many other functions. "Just about any physiological function you can think of in the body, it's likely at some point endocannabinoids are involved," Marsicano said.

And that means an understanding of how those natural signaling molecules act on astroglial and other cells could have a real impact. For instance, Zhang said, "we may find a way to deal with working memory problems in Alzheimer's."


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Contact: Elisabeth (Lisa) Lyons
elyons@cell.com
617-386-2121
Cell Press
Source:Eurekalert

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