Pubdate: Fri, 18 Mar 2016
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 The Calgary Sun
Author: Bill Kaufmann
Page: 16


U of C investigating marijuana's efficacy as trauma cure

Finding a cure for PTSD could come down to mice and marijuana, says a
University of Calgary researcher.

Italian memory scientist Dr. Maria Morena is taking a cue from
indications the use of cannabis by those suffering from post-traumatic
stress disorder, and a function of a brain associated with the drug,
could be a key in treatment.

The endocannibanoid system of the brain reacts to marijuana and
creates similar chemicals, much like opioids do with endorphins, said
the researcher.

It's a function that could be crucial in affecting how the brain's
prefrontal cortex (PFC) regulates the amygdala-the latter governs
emotions, said Morena.

"When it's just a perceived fear, the PFC restrains the response of
the amygdala," she said.

Cannabis could prove an effective medication in boosting the PFC,
added Morena, who's been studying the issue for nearly five years.

In her U of C lab, Morena uses mild electric shocks on mice to create
a learned anxiety to test stimuli that might block a fear response.

"I manipulate their system to see what the best system is to help,"
said Morena.

PTSD is widespread in Canadian society, ranging from military veterans
to first responders and survivors of various trauma.

Pharmacological treatment, she said, isn't always effective and while
it can control anxiety issues, "it doesn't for the cognitive part."
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