Beside squinty eyes and a creative mind, a standout among the effects of pot is the unusual craving for food, commonly known as “the munchies.” A group of specialists from the Yale School of Medicine recently sought to find the receptors in a cannabis smoker’s brain that are in charge of that wild inclination to eat after a hit.
The investigation’s lead creator Tamas Horvath, professor and director of the Yale Program in Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism, said in a press release:
“By observing how the appetite center of the brain responds to marijuana, we were able to see what drives the hunger brought about by cannabis and how that same mechanism that normally turns off feeding becomes a driver of eating. It’s like pressing a car’s brakes and accelerating instead. We were surprised to find that the neurons we thought were responsible for shutting down eating, were suddenly being activated and promoting hunger, even when you are full. It fools the brain’s central feeding system.”
Specialists studied mice and its mental functions with the goal of finding how cannabis affects craving. They concluded that marijuana is related to elevated levels of craving, paying little respect to how full you might be, by triggering the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R) inside the brain. Horvath and his group are also figuring if the CB1R receptor has anything to do with the high that comes from cannabis use.
“This event is key to cannabinoid-receptor-driven eating,” said Horvath, who points out that the feeding behavior driven by these receptors is just one mode of action that involves CB1R signaling. “More research is needed to validate the findings.”
This therapeutic effect of cannabis has been widely used by medical facilities to help cancer patients who in many cases lose their appetite amid chemotherapy medications. The impact that cannabis’ tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has on a brain stimulates their hunger and the olfactory sense, as indicated by The Smithsonian. This receptor is in charge of the food we smell, and THC essentially builds the individual’s capacity to smell nourishment, which then causes salivation and produces a hungrier reaction, hence the ‘munchies’.
Source: Horvath T, Koch M, Varela L, Kim JG, Kim JD, and Hernandez F. Nature. 2015.