Anyone who has ever smoked marijuana is well aware that this drug induces the consumption of food, particularly sweet tasty foods. Neuroscientists have used this action of the drug to explore the mechanisms within our brain that make us crave sweets and how we control our appetite. We have discovered that our brain’s endogenous cannabinoid system does far more than just induce us to eat; it also rewards us with a feeling of euphoria for doing so.
I was recently honored by an invitation to give a TED talk on this idea. The video is available here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SvkaK2Al0o&feature=plcp
A group of scientists, led by Maria Antonietta De Luca from the University of Cagliari in Italy, recently published a study in the journal Neuropharmacology that investigated specific brains regions that allow the active ingredient in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), to induce pleasure when eating tasty foods and how THC is able to induce people to choose sugary foods over all others. They wanted to know whether, and how, THC made all foods more enjoyable—even those that are usually quite unpleasant, such as quinine or highly concentrated salt solutions (think of the solution you drank to prep for a colonoscopy!).