How Adolescent Social Experiences Affect The Endcocannabinoid System

Lately movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and TV shows like Narcos have managed a difficult task: making villains likable. In some cases, despite all morality, we find ourselves rooting against the clear “good guys” and hoping the “bad guys” will continue to cleverly outfox all authority. How can the writers create such a shift in audience support? Back-story. By taking us along the personal development of the character, we understand what the character dreams for himself/herself and what the character is running from. We see fear and hope in the same troubled character, and this gives us a foothold into understanding his/her decision-making. In absolute contrast, in most Disney movies, villains seem to spontaneously show up bad. We have no mixed feelings, because we have nothing to feel that is good. Likewise until recent advances in neuroscience and psychology, we’ve had little explanation for a variety of illnesses and shifts in behavior. Most scientists of the early 1900’s would not have believed that a poor social interaction during adolescence could physically affect brain development. In fact, to suggest that anything non-physical could have a physical consequence years later would have seemed far-fetched. However, as we now know, the brain is very plastic and responds to environmental challenges. In childhood and adolescence, the brain is creating a structure in response to the environment in an attempt to best prepare itself for future needs. However, as we’ve seen in other illnesses, the brain does not always develop ideally. Harmful socialization…

Retinal Health and Cannabis- “Seeing” the Difference

Glaucoma was one of the first applications identified for medical cannabis treatment and remains one of the most common medical reasons for prescription. Why? In the 1970’s initial slew of cannabis-centric research, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a finding that individuals who smoked cannabis experienced lower intra-ocular (inner-eye) pressure. This was one of the first significant physiological findings regarding the effect of smoking cannabis. However, more importantly, it seemed to be an answer to glaucoma, a disease in which excess fluid builds up in the eye, causing higher pressure and cell damage. As a result, the study was duplicated often, and the results upheld the initial conclusion that cannabis could be an effective solution. Unfortunately, cannabis research waned in popularity. Once cannabis was culturally cast in the same category as other recreational drugs, the idea that it would ever be prescribed legally for glaucoma lost traction. Fortunately, years later, as we experience a renaissance in both cannabis prescription and cannabis research, a new interest has arisen in the way the endocannabinoid system might be manipulated to treat retinal disease. The endocannabinoid system, as some readers may be familiar with, is the system of cannabinoid receptors, natural cannabinoids that bind to them, and all the enzymes facilitating that process that are found in humans and most mammals. Recently we’ve learned that cannabinoid receptors are more complex than we imagined. Aside from cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, vanilloid receptors (an entirely different chemical system), and orphan GPR-55 receptors are…

How Chronic Stress Impairs the Endocannabioid System

In general, research into the body’s endocannabinoid system proceeds via administering a substance like a cannabinoid or another drug, and recording the impact of that administration on a specific behavior or physiological process. However, few experiments consider the reverse question: how do our behaviors and environments affect the endocannabinoid system? This system, like most other neurological systems, is not made up of a rigidly fixed number of receptors or ligands. Instead, it constantly changes and adapts to best serve the body, ramping up and down receptor density and receptor affinity as the body deems appropriate. Stress is now understood to be one of the factors that can impact the endocannabinoid system. In general, exposure to stressful events can easily cause a diverse and lasting set of consequences in both humans and animals. In what is most likely the body’s attempt to overcome and live with chronic stress or the possibility of another stressful event, synapses, which are the paths of communication between individual neurons, re-wire themselves. One extreme example is the maladaptive change that can occur in soldiers put in life or death situations. Soldiers may, for instance, learn to associate sounds heard during such a stressful event with the occurrence of the event itself. Later, in non-hostile environments, these same sounds can then trigger the body and brain to re-live the event, with intense physiological changes, such as the release of adrenaline and increased aggression. This is a classic example of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). However, stress can…