Secrets of the Molecular Makeup of Cannabis
High levels of cannabidiol (CBD) in cannabis can offset the neuropsychiatric effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by preventing activation of an emotional processing pathway, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.
Previous research has shown that strains of cannabis with high levels of THC and low levels of CBD have increased neuropsychiatric effects, but the exact relationship between CBD and THC was not understood. Hudson et al. investigated the role of the protein ERK, which triggers a signaling pathway implicated in the neuropsychiatric effects of THC.
Rats that were given THC had higher levels of activated ERK, showed more anxiety behaviors, and were more sensitive to fear-based learning. Rats that were given both CBD and THC acted like the control rats: they had normal levels of activated ERK, less anxiety behaviors, and were less sensitive to fear-based learning.
Based on these results, the research team proposes that THC activates ERK while CBD inhibits it. Increased levels of active ERK could disrupt emotional processing, leading to increased anxiety and fear learning.