Unraveling Anxiety's Secrets with Endocannabinoids
Dr. Matthew Hill
University of Calgary
About the researcher
Graduate Student at the University of Calgary
Currently, many people who suffer from anxiety self-medicate with Cannabis. While this seems to reduce anxiety in most people, some people have reported that Cannabis increases their anxiety and depressive symptoms. Previous animal studies have shown that cannabinoid drugs can have the opposite effect depending on the conditions in which they are administered. This project investigates if the endocannabinoid system increases or decreases anxiety based on different emotional environments.
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to play a critical role in the regulation of stress and anxiety. The goal of this study is to evaluate whether this regulation is affected by the level of environment-associated emotional arousal. They investigated this in an animal model through the implementation of cannabinoids in different emotional environments (either high or low levels of arousal). They found that those in an environment with low levels of emotional arousal exhibited less anxiety compared to those in environments with high levels of emotional arousal. This shows that the endocannabinoid system is differentially activated to regulate anxiety depending on one’s environment. This project aids in understanding the neurobiological mechanisms involved in the differential impact of stress on emotionality.
Currently, researchers are conducting projects into how the endocannabinoid system naturally fluctuates depending on levels of emotional arousal. This will allow for a more in depth understanding of the results in the present study. In the long term, this project acts as a stepping stone to further unraveling the complex mechanisms involved in stress-induced anxiety and the process by which the endocannabinoid system regulates it.