Interference with the normal function of endocannabinoids is caused by the initiation of the formation of beta-amyloid proteins that signal the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Endocannabinoids are very similar in structure to the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Dr. Daniel Madison, associate professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, is the first to elucidate the function of endocannabinoids in Alzheimer’s. The research was published in the June 18, 2014, edition of the journal Neuron.
The researchers examined the activity of small amounts of beta-amyloid proteins on the nerves in the hippocampus area of the brain. Normal levels of beta-amyloid proteins were found to enhance the ability to determine and remember location in space and to segregate, store, or disregard memories. Higher levels of beta-amyloid proteins produced the typical lack of memory retention and loss of spatial orientation seen in Alzheimer’s.
Endocannabinoids are produced when a memory or event is important. The production of endocannabinoids and the transfer of the electrical impulses that is a memory are directed to specific nerve cells that preserve the memory. Even small amounts of beta-amyloid proteins were found to prevent the binding of endocannabinoids to the proper receptor. The time involved for the endocannabinoid function in memory is extremely short.
One would expect that the use of marijuana or the active ingredient in marijuana might be an effective treatment for this part of Alzheimer’s disease. The time frame that marijuana is effective in the human body is much longer than the time frame that endocannabinoids are active. Marijuana does not exhibit the capacity to distinguish between memory impulses that need to be retained and memories that should be discarded.
This is the first research that has found a definite chemical link between beta-amyloid proteins and the endocannabinoid function in memory retention. The study was done with mice. The chemistry of mouse brains is almost exactly the same as human brains. The research may provide a method to prevent Alzheimer’s but marijuana is not the answer.