Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cannabis and the brain

Cannabis: Good or Bad?  The active ingredient in Marijuana is called THC which is short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.  This chemical closely resembles another naturally produced chemical in our bodies called cannabinoids, which like THC, bind to areas of the brain called cannabinoid receptors.  These receptors are located in many different areas of the brain including the hypothalamus, cerebral cortex, and the thalamus to name a few.  How the drug works is the THC is artificially responsible for causing increased amounts of the cannabinoid receptor to be stimulated.  This ultimately causes an overflow of feelings we would consider normal or naturally safe.  It’s because of these reasons why marijuana can be so useful in medical practices such as relieving pain/swelling and increasing appetites in cancer patients unable to enjoy food any longer.  However there are also many negative effects on the brain such as disruption of short term memory, altering the minds perception of time, and destroying natural levels of specific chemicals in your brain.  The question is does this drug have more pros then cons or is it as bad for you as your parents would have you believe.  This question cannot be completely yet due to the lack of long term evidence on the brain.  Until the long term effects of consuming THC are known, THC will continue to bind to medical patient’s receptors and illegally to the millions of recreational users throughout the world.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stress: Good or Bad?

Everyone knows the feeling all too well, your cramped for time and you have so many things to do your head is spinning.  We call this mind boggling feeling stress.  Cortisol is the chemical found in the brain which is said to be responsible for managing stress levels.  While short term stress (less then 30 minutes) can be good for the brain and even incresase memory, attention span, and the immune system, long term stress takes our brains to the breaking point.  The article suggests that negative effects on the hippocampus may result from too much stress.  This happens when cortisol can no longer keep up with stress levels.  Long term exposure (greater than 30 minutes) may even result in the shrinking of the hippocampus with associated declines in memory, and cognitive function.  However, the article states that this damage may be reversed if the stressor is eliminated from the picture.