• Scientists discovered that the body produces natural cannabinoids
  • These cannabinoids help people forget traumatic memories, as well as regulate stress levels
  • The study shows promise and could possibly lead to better treatments of anxiety

A group of scientists from Leiden University in the Netherlands discovered that the brain produces natural cannabinoids, which helps people in forgetting traumatic experiences, as well as in reducing stress.

Cannabinoids are generally known as the natural compounds that are found in the cannabis plant. It was quite surprising that the body likewise produces this compound in the form of endocannabinoids, which bind to the nervous system receptors, affecting appetite, memory, and stress.

The study, which could be found in Nature Chemical Biology, stated that the endogenous cannabinoid produced by the brain is called anandamide. This is the one that naturally helps people forget traumatic memories.

body produces natural cannabinoids that help people forget traumatic memories
body produces natural cannabinoids that help people forget traumatic memories HuyNgan - Pixabay

1922 Discovery

Anandamide was first discovered in 1922. Since its discovery, several studies have already been conducted. Researchers have highlighted its possible role in regulating appetite, pain, and stress.

What scientists do is change the levels of anandamide and monitor the effects on the behavior of participants. Researchers were confronted with issues, though, since there were not enough pharmacological tools to carry it out.

Revolutionary Research Process

The recent Leiden University study though, made use of a 2-step process. They inhibited the protein NAPE-PLD, which is responsible for the production of anandamide, causing a reduced level of cannabinoids in the brain.

The next step was to test the inhibitor on mice. The researchers delivered shocks on the foot of the mice, coupled with playing a sound. Over time, they stopped administering the shock but continued to play the sound.

Upon receiving the inhibitor, though, the mice had lesser anandamide in their brains, and they exhibited fear even if they only hear the sound being played. It was also found that the stress levels of the mice increased as measured by their corticosteroid levels. They likewise noticed that the region of the brain that coordinates the stress response of the mice became active.

Treating Anxiety

"From this, you can infer that anandamide is involved in reducing anxiety and stress,” stated Prof. Van der Stelt, the senior author of the study.

Thus, the results showed promise in finding possible treatments for anxiety and stress. Since it was found that anandamide plays an important role in regulating stress and anxiety, it could pave the way to better treatments for anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said the researchers.