Our life is a combination of new actions and habitual behaviors, but people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have different problems with their behavior. However, a recent study has found that cannabis compounds may help treat this disorder.
OCD is a condition characterized by repetitive and uncontrollable compulsions and obsessions, as the National Institute of Mental Health states. Obsessions that OCD patients experience usually lead to anxiety that makes people constantly do certain actions in order to relieve their condition. Some of them might have difficulties in driving to new places, while others may feel it is necessary to count their money over and over.
Though there are many drugs used for treating OCD, not all of them bring the desired effect. However, a new study has found that endocannabinoids can also be involved in the fight against this disorder.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) funded a study done on mice.
Based on previous findings that habit formation depends on the activity of the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), researchers suggested that endocannabinoids in the OFC could influence the behavior of mice. Scientists probed the brain mechanisms that are responsible for the transition from purposeful behavior to habitual actions.
During this study, mice were fed in two different ways. According to one way, animals received their food using their habitual actions, while the second way required the mice to perform new behaviors directed by their goal. When the activity of neurons in the OFC was chemically inhibited, the mice relied only on habitual behaviors. After scientists selectively deleted cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptor from the OFC neurons, they discovered that the mice were not able to form habits and had to give goal-directed responses.
Discovering this fact, researchers came to the conclusion that such brain messengers as endocannabinoids, which are very similar to marijuana's cannabinoids, play an important role in the decision-making process.
According to the authors of the paper, the study managed to discover a mechanism responsible for the transition between purposeful and habitual actions. Moreover, the researchers are sure that this could provide more information on how habits are formed by our brain and how abuse of endocannabinoids and cannabinoids can affect habitual behavior pathophysiology.
The study results may prompt scientists to research further the way the active compounds of cannabis affect human memory and decision-making and help develop new ways of OCD treatment.