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Advanced Imaging Set to Reveal Effects of Cannabinoids on the Brain

Published: Apr 30, 2018   
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University of Utah Health is proud to announce that it has recently received a $740,000 grant to study personalized effects of cannabinoids through the use of advanced brain imaging.  The medical use of cannabinoids across an increasing number of conditions is now permitted in 29 states and counting, yet critical questions remain unanswered.  The specific mechanisms by which cannabinoids, such as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), influence brain networks have not yet been identified.  It is also unclear why CBD and THC appear to have different effects for different individuals.  U of U Health investigators now have the opportunity to forge ahead in this exciting area of study, thanks to a new grant from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation (RTNF), given in partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation.

The $740K grant will enable the researchers to examine how cannabinoids influence brain networks and why cannabinoids affect individuals differently by using cutting-edge advanced brain-imaging technology. The two-year study, which will involve 40 healthy young adults, will be led by a multi-disciplinary team of investigators with expertise in neuroimaging, neuropsychology, biostatistics, imaging physics, and psychiatry.   The study will use molecular and advanced functional imaging to compare the brain effects of placebo, THC and CBD (both isolate and whole plant preparations) related to attention, memory, processing of novelty and change as well as stress and pain.  The analysis of the responses will offer a first of its kind view into how the personalized effects of cannabinoids may arise from the type, density, location or other differences in cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

 “We still do not understand many fundamental cannabinoids mechanisms, such as which receptors in the brain they work through and how they cause changes in brain networks underlying attention, anxiety, pain and mood.” said Jon-Kar Zubieta, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the U of U School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and the study’s co-principal investigator. “Deciphering the personalized effects of CBD and THC will have a profound impact on how various cannabinoids may best be used for medical treatments”

 “There is increasing data that the endocannabinoid system plays an integral role in our overall physical and psychological wellness”, said Andy Noorda, Chairman and Co-founder of the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation and trustee of RTNF.  “We are beyond excited to partner with the internationally recognized scientists at University of Utah on groundbreaking research that has the potential to dramatically shape the developing field of cannabinoid therapy.”

 “This unique study will not only answer important questions about how CBD and THC affect brain function but will also provide critical experience, data and infrastructure that will allow our team to continue to effectively compete for research funding from the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies to extend our findings into clinical trials and pursue new avenues of research opened up by these results,” said Jeffrey Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of radiology and the study’s co-principal investigator. “We couldn’t be more eager to get started.”

This article has been republished from materials provided by University of Utah. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.


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