Article by Guelph Today
As the Canadian government prepares to introduce new marijuana legislation, almost 130,000 Canadians have already registered to use medical marijuana to treat a variety of conditions, including pain, nausea, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
And it’s not a new phenomenon: medical marijuana use dates back more than 4,000 years.
Linda Parker’s new book, Cannabinoids and the Brain (MIT Press, 2017), reviews scientific evidence of the effects of cannabinoids (chemical compounds found in cannabis) on the brain and behaviour, with a focus on potential therapeutic applications.
“Although there is considerable anecdotal evidence that cannabinoids are therapeutic for several conditions, the question is, is there good evidence for the use of cannabinoids in treating these different disorders?” says Parker, a University of Guelph psychology professor and Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Neuroscience.
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main active ingredient in marijuana, acting on cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and the body.
“When these receptors were discovered in the brain in 1988, it became clear to researchers that the brain must produce chemicals that act on them, as THC does,” says Parker.
In her new book, she describes how these cannabinoid neurotransmitters, called endocannabinoids, were discovered and how they act to play a protective role in brain functioning.