New research out of Britain have found evidence that the chemical CBD increases blood flow to regions of the brain that deal with memory.
The authors of the study were encouraged by recent studies that indicated that CBD, or cannabidiol, may help reduce symptoms of psychosis and anxiety and improve memory function. They wanted to go a step further, so they measured whether CBD influences the blood supply making it to the memory processing areas of the brain.
“Our secondary aim was to determine if the effects of CBD on blood flow were associated with differences in working and episodic memory task performance,” they wrote in the introduction to the study, “The Effects of Acute Cannabidiol on Cerebral Blood Flow and Its Relationship to Memory,” which was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Either single capsules that contained 600 mg of CBD or a placebo pill were given weekly to 15 young participants. They all had little or no history of cannabis use and didn’t know which capsule they were getting. MRI brain scans were then administered to measure changes in blood oxygen levels.
The research showed that those who were given the single doses of CBD experienced increased blood flow to areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus, which is the section of the brain involved in memories, learning, and emotions.
The authors found that while CBD increased blood flow to the hippocampus, it did not cause changes in other brain regions. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to find that CBD increases blood flow to key regions involved in memory processing, particularly the hippocampus,” they wrote, in effect disputing a couple of earlier studies that came to different conclusions. “This supports the view that CBD has region-specific blood flow effects in the human brain, which has previously been disputed.”
The researchers say it’s a good start, but warned that continued research and studies are necessary before any definitive statement can be made.
“More blood flow is associated with better memory performance,” the researchers noted. “These findings may have implications for the potential use of CBD across a range of disorders associated with hippocampal dysfunction. This finding may be particularly relevant to Alzheimer’s disease, where there are defects in blood flow control.”
They cautioned that the research was limited to a small dosage of CBD administered only to healthy, younger volunteers, which may not translate to the effects of repeated CBD dosing or to older or in-firmed patients. They were also unable to study the chemical’s impact on people with tasks to complete, like we all have to do in the real world.
“This study used a single dose of CBD in healthy volunteers, which may not translate to the effects of repeated CBD dosing and the use of CBD for psychiatric disorders or cognitive impairments,” the researchers noted.
They wrote that while “CBD changes how the brain processes emotional memories, which could help to explain its reputed therapeutic effects in PTSD and other psychiatric disorders,” they were unable to identify how this happens.
Still, while preliminary, the researchers note the study represents progress: “If replicated, these results could lead to further research across a range of conditions characterized by changes in how the brain processes memories.”