Starting off from the premise that stress is a major exacerbating factor in the development of depression and PTSD, Patel and colleagues set out to investigate the neurochemicals involved in stress resilience - namely, the brain's ability to adapt to the negative effects of stress.
Endocannabinoids are part of the so-called endogenous cannabinoid (or endocannabinoid) system, which consists of endocannabinoids and their receptors. The system is present throughout the human body, and it helps to regulate crucial aspects of our health, such as our immune and nervous systems.
Endocannabinoids are lipids that act as a kind of neurotransmitter. Mainly, they activate the CB1 and CB2 brain receptors. CB1 can be found in several brain areas, including the neocortex, the hippocampus, the amygdala, the cerebellum, and the hypothalamus. These brain areas are known to be involved in emotional and behavioral reactions, homeostasis, learning, memory, and decision-making.
Patel has previously researched the role of endocannabinoid brain receptors and singled out the CB1 receptor as a key role in anxiety. Patel and his team located CB1 receptors in the brain's amygdala and found that if this receptor is blocked or the gene encodes it is deleted, anxiety increases.
Additionally, in a separate study, Patel and colleagues demonstrated that the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) also plays a critical role in regulating emotional behavior. Using a mouse model, they showed that a lower amount of 2-AG were more likely to behave in a way that suggests anxiety and depression, whereas an increased level of the chemical had the opposite effect.
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