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Could the interventions for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases call for an equally complex solution, something like CBD?
According to this 2017 study, it’s a real possibility: “Pre-clinical evidence largely shows that CBD can produce beneficial effects in AD [Alzheimer’s Disease], PD and MS patients….”
But not all of us have Alzheimer’s or dementia. How does CBD affect our brains? Equally favorably: it offers a variety of benefits to the healthy person’s nervous system, too.
And these happen through many of the same anti-inflammatory pathways that appear to reduce amyloid plaque buildup and ‘rewire’ circuits damaged by tau proteins in patients with Alzheimer's Disease. These shared, CBD-centric pathways are, as always, pretty diverse:
CBD acts through the endocannabinoid system and causes direct or indirect activation of metabotropic receptors for serotonin or adenosine…
In a word, CBD’s neurological benefits are regenerative. While it’s true that the brain doesn’t often create new neurons (usually, existing neurons have to stay healthy and regenerated), CBD may present an exception.
According to The Role of Cannabinoids In Adult Neurogenesis, “cannabinoids are a unique class of chemical compounds” with “clear modulatory roles in adult neurogenesis, probably through activation of both CB1 and CB2 receptors.”
This type of neurogenesis was once impossible; indeed, it only happens in certain parts of the adult brain (like the hippocampus). But plant compounds like CBD are one of the best ways to regenerate the brain.
The endocannabinoids (ECBs) that CBD boosts primarily are concentrated in the hippocampus. Deep within the hippocampus and cortex, an endocannabinoid called Anandamide (we’ll talk much more about it later!) is produced when cells sense imbalances and stress.
Based on existing research, increased anandamide production allows existing neurons to communicate better and faster, signaling each other where new growth is needed. Both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids may boost something called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), “a central player in adult neurogenesis.”
The results of neurogenesis can be nothing short of amazing. Going back to “The Role of Cannabinoids In Adult Neurogenesis” study, again, they include neurotransmitter proliferation, differentiation, survival, and integration. In simpler terms, CBD may help the brain’s cells grow, specialize, and survive, even when exposed to neurotoxins.
CBD, FLEXIBILITY AND LEARNING
These neurogenesis-related qualities make CBD the perfect candidate for those who want to improve their mental performance.
A brain boosted by cannabinoids may be more efficient and more “neuroplastic” — i.e., more flexible. Anecdotally, countless users are already experiencing just that. Many users report more focus, better intuition, and enhanced creativity.
We’re not talking about just any type of learning, though. Thankfully, CBD’s ability to promote learned behaviors is selective — it appears to reduce fear-induced education.
CBD may seem too good to be true, but the evidence suggests otherwise. A study from 2016 put it this way: “the evidence indicates that cannabidiol reduces learned fear in different ways.”
Could routine CBD use promote a more particular type of learning, which could help a person take away from any given situation its positives? Maybe so:
Other researchers have theorized that CBD “administered before fear conditioning” might “modulate cognitive learning and memory processes in additional ways that would further guide its potential use for treating PTSD.”
To summarize, CBD may lead to the following:
- Improved retrograde signaling =
- Improved communication =
- Improved synaptic plasticity =
- More efficient feedback loops =
- Faster, more selective learning.
That’s a simplistic summary, of course, but it is safe to say that CBD is great for one’s brain function. What does any of this have to do with aging, though? That’s another good question…one with complex answers, answers we’re just beginning to figure out.
Typically, the aging brain becomes less plastic, less flexible, and less apt to learn new things. The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” rings true here, even scientifically.
Except, that is, with CBD. Reports from nurses and caregivers suggest that CBD has helped elderly patients improve their learning and memory after only a few doses of CBD oil. Though this hasn’t been confirmed in clinical trials yet, it’s still accurate.
Could CBD-mediated improvements in learning bring up one’s general brain health along with them? Considering just how intrinsically tied brain function is to life, the answer seems to be yes.
If nothing else, CBD’s potential memory-enhancing qualities could give one’s progression into aging more focus and clarity. And boost general cognitive function in the meantime.