The blocking of endocannabinoids — the brain’s internal versions of marijuana’s psychoactive chemicals — appears to play a role in the early pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.
Research led by Daniel Madison, PhD, associate professor of molecular and cellular physiology, found that a compound called A-beta might, in the disease’s earliest stages, impair learning and memory by blocking the natural, beneficial action of endocannabinoids in the hippocampus. This midbrain structure serves as a combination GPS system and memory-filing assistant, along with other duties. A-beta is the chief constituent of the hallmark clumps dotting the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
The Stanford group is now trying to figure out the molecular details of how and where this interference occurs. That could pave the path to new drugs to stave off the cognitive defects that characterize Alzheimer’s.
However, Madison said it would be incorrect to infer from this study that smoking pot would counter or prevent Alzheimer’s.
The study was published in Neuron.