In a recent study, researchers have made a profound discovery that a single dose of CBD increases blood flow to the hippocampus region of the brain, which is the area connected to memory and emotion.
This new study, led by researchers at University College London, say the findings could play a significant role in therapeutic options for conditions that affect memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the primary goal was for researchers to investigate how CBD interacts with cerebral blood flow in different parts of the brain involving memory processing.
The secondary aim was to determine if the effects of CBD on cerebral blood flow were associated with differences in working and episodic memory task performance.
Dr. Michael Bloomfield, the lead author of the new study and a professor of psychiatry at UCL, said, "Cannabidiol is one of the main constituents of cannabis and is gaining interest for its therapeutic potential."
"There is some evidence to suggest that CBD may improve memory function. Additionally, CBD changes how the brain processes emotional memories, which could help to explain its reputed therapeutic effects in PTSD and other psychiatric disorders. However, the precise mechanisms underlying the effects of CBD on memory are unclear."
How Did Researchers Discover the Link Between CBD and Cerebral Flood Flow?
Researchers studied basic blood flow measurements based on previous research findings that suggest higher resting hippocampal blood flow may be linked to increased memory performance.
For the randomized controlled study, 15 healthy adult participants were selected with little or no history of using cannabis.
On different occasions, separated by at least one week, each participant was given 600mg of CBD by mouth or a placebo. Both doses were given in identical capsules so that participants did not know which one they were taking on those separate instances.
From there, researchers went on to measure blood flow to the hippocampus region using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scanning technique called 'arterial spin labeling.' This type of MRI measures changes in the blood oxygen levels.
What are the Findings of CBD and Blood Flow?
The results showed that CBD significantly increased cerebral blood flow in the hippocampus as well as blood flow in the orbitofrontal cortex, a region known for decision making.
However, the single dose did not show significant differences in blood flow in other regions of the medial temporal lobe (MTL), which contains important structures related to cognitive and emotional functions.
"To our knowledge, this is the first study to find that CBD increases blood flow to key regions involved in memory processing, particularly the hippocampus,” says Broomfield. “This supports the view that CBD has region-specific blood flow effects in the human brain, which has previously been disputed."
Because the tests do not confer any improvements in memory task performance, the research does not currently conclude CBD as a memory-enhancing resource.
In fact, the study instead points to the potential for CBD to help treat neurological conditions related to abnormal or insufficient blood flow in specific regions of the brain.
Broomfield concluded, "If replicated, these results could lead to further research across a range of conditions characterized by changes in how the brain processes memories, including Alzheimer’s disease, where there are defects in the control of blood control flow, along with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder."
It’s important to note that this study used only a single dose of CBD in healthy volunteers, which may have a different effect for those given repeated CBD dosing.
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