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THC promotes recovery from traumatic brain injury, study finds

The endocannabinoid system is thought to be involved in mediating brain repair.

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A new study has found that administration of THC promotes “significant” recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI).

THC may help people suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) recover their working memory and locomotor function, according to a study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in August.

The researchers from the University of South Florida treated mice with Δ9-THC and measured changes in working memory and locomotor function at baseline and days three, seven and 14.

The mice exhibited “marked improvement”, the researchers said, indicating that the phytocannabinoid could potentially reverse the deficit in memory loss following a brain injury.

The authors determined that this effect is associated with the up-regulation of certain proteins in the brain, namely G-CSF, BDNF and GDNF.

These three proteins have previously been shown to mediate self-repair of the brain following a Controlled Cortical Impact (CCI), a model used by scientists to induce a reproducible injury.

The study also found that mice treated with THC experienced an up-regulation of 2-AG, an endocannabinoid that plays a vital role in the endocannabinoid system and keeps the body in homeostasis. It activates the CB-1 receptors which are in especially high concentration in parts of the brain.

After an injury, the researchers said the endocannabinoid system appears to be involved in mediating brain repair, with levels of the endocannabinoid ligand 2-AG increasing in all three brain regions after seven and 14 days.

“Improvement in working memory was associated with upregulation of BDNF, GDNF, and G-CSF in the cerebral cortex, striatum, and hippocampus,” the researchers wrote in the paper’s conclusion.

“In addition, levels of the most abundant endocannabinoid ligand, 2-AG, were increased in the Δ9-THC-treated mice compared with controls.

“Increased brain levels of 2-AG, produced by inhibiting its breakdown, are reported to mediate recovery of working memory and fine motor function in a mouse model of TBI.”

They added: “Treatment of mice with Δ9-THC following CCI resulted in time-dependent recovery of short-term spatial working memory. Further research is required to elucidate the role of the [endocannabinoid system] in mediating the recovery from injury.”

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