Scientists haven’t yet figured out why many cannabis consumers experience the effects of THC as pleasant and relaxing while some experience paranoia, discomfort, and negative feelings.
At Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, however, at least they’ve figured out where that divergence of experience is occurring.
In a study of rats published in Scientific Reports, Prof. Steven Laviolette and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Christopher Norris determined both THC’s pleasurable effects and its negative effects originate in the same area of the brain, called the nucleus accumbens.
The pleasurable effects, however, occurred when THC was processed by the front of the nucleus accumbens. In the posterior of the region, the same THC produced adverse effects, including negative feelings and emotions, and patterns of neuron activity similar to those seen in schizophrenia.
Laviolette and Norris suggest that different cannabis experiences are a question of which part of the nucleus accumbens is the most sensitive to THC.
In a press release, the researchers said, “These findings reveal critical new insights into how marijuana can produce such highly diverse psychological effects in different individuals. They also suggest that the specific area of an individual’s nucleus accumbens that is more sensitive to THC, might be a critical indicator of whether they experience positive or negative side-effects from marijuana exposure.”