12: THC binding to THC receptors in the nucleus accumbens: increased dopamine release
[Note to scientists - the interaction of THC with the reward system is not fully understood at this point. The following discussion is based on recent data, but additional theories may emerge as we obtain more data.] State that scientists know the least about THC. Over the last few years, there has been intense study to discover where and how THC works. One theory is that it acts in a similar way to opiates. Again use the nucleus accumbens as an example. The same three neurons are probably involved: the dopamine terminal, another terminal (on the right) containing a different neurotransmitter (probably GABA), and the post-synaptic cell containing dopamine receptors. Ask the students if they can tell you how THC might work. THC binds to THC receptors (magenta) on the neighboring terminal and this sends a signal to the dopamine terminal to release more dopamine. [Again, it is probably a presynaptic receptor on GABA interneurons that controls dopamine release.]
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National Institute on Drug Abuse (2007). 12: THC binding to THC receptors in the nucleus accumbens: increased dopamine release. In The Brain & the Actions of Cocaine, Opiates, and Marijuana. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/brain-actions-cocaine-opiates-marijuana/section-iii-introduction-to-drugs-abuse-cocaine-opia-11
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