LEIOA, Spain, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Natural and synthetic cannabinoids influence amnesia by activating receptors in neuronal mitochondria, researchers found in a study.
Investigators built on earlier scholarship that established the extracts of cannabis can inhibit communication between neurotransmitters in the brain. In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists at the University of the Basque Country in Spain found the amnesia effects of cannabis require activation of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in the mitochondria of the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with memory function.
In the study, investigators linked the memory loss associated with cannabis use with the mitochondria in neurons. Mitochondria are organelles responsible for producing a cell's energy. According to the authors, disrupting their activity can have adverse effects.
"Mitochondrial malfunctioning could have serious consequences for the brain," researcher Pedro Grandes explained in a press release. "For example, chronic mitochondrial dysfunction is involved in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, strokes or disorders associated with aging. However, the involvement of the acute variation in mitochondrial activity in higher brain functions, such as memory, was unknown."
Despite the problems identified with cannabis use, the research team concedes the plant still has potential therapeutic benefits. Their findings, they suggest, can make said treatment safer for patients.
"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," Grandes added.