In its latest (December) issue, Nature Neuroscience journal published the results of this research, which was coordinated by Pedro Grandes and Nagore Puente. This discovery could open new horizons for developing new anxiolytics that act on the components making up the endocannabinoid system and, as a consequence, for creating new pharmaceutical drugs which are more effective against the physiological and psychological changes that arise from a stress situation.
The research team focused on studying the extended amygdala, which is a brain nucleus that processes stress information, and they observed that the application to this nucleus of two distinct stimuli – one short and the other long – gives rise to the production of two different endocannabinoids (2-AG and anandamyde, respectively) which modulate the synaptic transmission between neuronal circuits.
According to Pedro Grandes, professor of Human Anatomy and Embryology and Director of the Department of Neurosciences at the UPV/EHU, “this is an important fact in the sense that, for example, in a situation of acute stress or chronic stress, cerebral mechanisms are triggered, the consequence of which is the production of one of these endogen cannabinoids in this nucleus of the brain, thus favouring the re-establishment of internal equilibrium”.
Endocannabinoids are lipid mediators produced by the human organism itself, not only at a brain level, but also at a peripheral level. According to professor Grandes, “Nature has placed all the proteins and enzymatic machinery making up this endocannabinoid system at the disposal of a physiological function in the processing of nervous signals; in short, this system intervenes by modulating the communication between neurones”.
Studying the functioning of the stress level of the brain opens up the possibility of new therapeutic targets and identifying new points at which future anxiolytics can interact. Thus, new pharmaceutical drugs will be able to reduce the adverse effects – such as physical and chemical dependency or somnolence – of traditional benzodiazepines.
The research team at the Faculty of Medicine and Odontology of the UPV/EHU began this work four years ago. To date their labour has focused on studying the behaviour in physiological conditions and, at a subsequent phase, will proceed to analyse this reaction under experimental conditions of stress amongst rats.
- Prentsa Bulegoa
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