In the final installment of this series, we’re getting academic and providing an overview of research going on in using cannabis to treat Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Please note, all research studies reviewed for this blog conducted tests on murine models.
Traumatic brain injuries are defined as brain dysfunctions caused by an external blow to the head. The primary injuries include cell death, blood vessel disruption, and swelling. These effects at a cellular level can result in behavioral deficits, such as learning and memory, neurological motor impairments, anxiety and post-traumatic seizures. Studies have shown that cannabinoids have protective effects which limit brain damage and improve recovery.
The human body has an internal system, known as the endocannabinoid system (eCB), which responds to cannabinoids. The eCB responds through two receptors: CB1 and CB2. When a TBI occurs, the body releases compounds that lead to oxidative stress, inflammation, and excitotoxicity. This type of response causes the secondary response of cell death. However, the activation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors has been shown to
- Prevent the release of proinflammatory compounds
- Stimulate the release of a compound that reduces brain swelling, neurological impairment, and damage to the brain’s axons (which carry information between cells)
Another study found that increasing levels of cannabinoids found naturally in the human body provide protection against motor deficits caused by neurological changes due to TBI.
While the above research findings show promise in the promise of cannabinoids on treating Traumatic Brain Injuries, there is still a need for more studies evaluating the effect of cannabinoids on anxiety and post-traumatic seizures, as the results of existing studies are inconclusive. Essentially, we need to lobby for more research!
We’ve provided a very brief snapshot of the body of work researching cannabinoids as a treatment for TBI. For those keen on learning more, we recommend visiting the following link to read a 2017 literature review of research on this topic.