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Why Does Marijuana Provide You with The Munchies?

little burgers

Image credit: BrazilPhotos/shutterstock.com

Do you fancy chicken wings or chip & fish? It has been known that the uncontrollable urge to snack is contributed to activating the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R). However, based on the latest research released in the new edition of Nature, the munchies are driven partly by neurons, typically functioning to suppress your appetite, which seems quite weird.

According to Tamas Horvath from Yale, it was just like pressing a car’s brakes and accelerating instead. It was surprising to find out by researchers that the neurons responsible for shutting down eating in their previous thought, were accidentally being activated and enhancing hunger, even in the case that people were feeling full. As a result, it could fool the central feeding system of the brain.

It had been discovered in the previous studies that a group of brain cells known as pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons would the important part in prevention of overeating. Therefore, researchers doubted that the signals that enhanced feeding would lead to decreasing POMC neuronal activity, but it was still quite unclear in this respect.

In order to have a monitoring of the brain circuitry that enhanced eating, Horvath and his colleagues from the international research institutes had manipulated the pathway mediating marijuana’s actions on mice’s brains. It was unexpected to find that the hunger-suppressing neurons demonstrated promoted activity during the mice’s feeding induced by cannabinoid.

As Horvath explained, by observing the way in which the appetite center of the brain was responsive to marijuana, they were capable of driving the hunger aroused by cannabis and how that same mechanism that generally switched off feeding turned into a driver of eating.

The researchers found that the feeding signals caused by CB1R activation could enhance the activity of POMC neurons, allowing them to give off chemicals different from those typically produced to increase satiety, namely the feeling of being full.

Talking of their research, Horvath said that feeding behavior driven by these neurons was just one mode of action related to CB1R signaling. His colleagues were trying to find out whether this mechanism was also the main factor in becoming high. To understand the reason that people get hungry when they are  comfortably satiated would be much helpful for researchers to identify the ways to restrain hungriness as well as to stimulate it,  for instance, affecting those patients who lose their appetite during the period of necessary treatment.

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