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Cannabis: Professor Raphael Mechoulam - Discovery of THC in 1964, Anandamide in 1992

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It's name is THC, and it was discovered back in 1964 in a lab in Jerousalem by chemist Raphael Mechoulam Cannabis had not been well investigated, which was strange after all it has been used, ilegally or legally by millions of people and yet we didn't know that much about it. So I thought it's a good idea to look at it again from a modern point of view In the lab, Mechoulam and his colleagues broke cannabis down and zeroed in on the chemical components that might be causing it's effects We isolated about ten compounds, surprisingly, out of the ten Only one, which now is known as delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in short THC, causes the well known high We tested it in humans, many of my friends and we saw that the compound is effective as we expected it to be The identification of THC answered one question but raised another Just what did it do to the brain? I had always assumed that people knew how marijuana worked It surprised me, actualy when I began looking at the research literature that it was really clear that no one really knew how it worked In 1988 Allyn Howlett found the answer She discovered that deep inside the brain THC molecules activate a previously unknown network of specialized chemical receptors So that was proof that there is a receptor protein in the brain that can bind to THC like a key in a lock It was very exciting because what that meant to us was we had a tool that could be used for studying and other researchers could use it as well and people could study where that receptor was in the brain Howlett and other scientists found the receptors in the hippocampus which forms memories, the cerebellum, which controls movement and the frontal cortex, where we think Here are these receptors, that this chemical, produced by a plant out in the world just so happen to have the precise combination to unlock What a extraordinary thing that is Is that why that receptor network existed? So that people could get high? We don't have those receptors just so that people can get high smoking pot Receptors are developed in neurons so that they can communicate with a chemical that the body makes So that was the logic behind going in and trying to extract a compound in the brain that would act just like marijuana did and in 1992 proof came that the brain does make a compound very much like THC It was discovered by none other than Raphael Mechoulam who named it Anandamide We call it the brain's own marijuana because the compound that is made by the brain, Anandamide shares all the properties, in terms of the receptor level and cellular level that THC has It turns out that when anadamide is released in the brain like marijuana, it affects such basic things such as appetite pain and memory And it places a critical role at a sometimes underapreciated mental function Forgetting When I first heard that, it didn't seem adaptive to me to have a drug for forgetting Memory we understand as great survival utility You learn that that's a poisonous mushroom and that's a dangerou animal and you stay away, you remember that But why would forgetting be adaptive? And I asked Mechoulam this question and he said tell me, do you really wanna remember all the faces you saw on the subway this morning? Forgetting well is almost as important as remembering well Forgetting is about editing It's about taking the flood, the ocean of sense information coming at you, and forgetting everything that was important So life is not just about accumulating new memories Memories can cripple us too [Booom] You have soldiers returning from war zones that are traumatized by experiences that in effect they can't unlearn so if you could help them unlearn that essentially a productive kind of forgetting, either with a drug or some other kind of regime, would be incredibly usefull

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 2 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 1,861
Posted by: eduardoschenberg on Feb 2, 2012

Raphael Mechoulam is an Israeli professor for Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While working on research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1964, Michoulam succeeded in the isolation, structure elucidation and total synthesis of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the main active principle of cannabis.

This video discusses what THC does to the brain, it also touches on the 1992 discovery of Anandamide, also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA, which is an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter found in human organs. When the compound is released into the brain it affects memory, appetite and pain. It was isolated and its structure was first described in 1992.

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