Researchers at the University of Bristol have made new progress in understanding how cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs), the proteins that detect the active components of marijuana, are controlled in the brain.
The brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells that are constantly communicating with one another at specialised junctions called synapses. Nerve cells possess extensions called axons, which send signals to synapses, and dendrites, which receive information from synapses.
At the synapse, the electrical ‘firing’ of a nerve cell causes the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters from the presynaptic terminals of its axon. These neurotransmitters cross the synapse and pass on the signal by binding to receptors at postsynaptic sites on the dendrites of the next nerve cell.