The Endocannabinoid System and Neurogenesis


It is remarkable how society’s collective knowledge moves forward with the passage of time and the production of valuable scientific research. For example, scientists used to believe that all neurogenesis occurred during the gestation of pregnancy.

Naturally, we have begun to understand that that was a misconception, which has led to the establishment of neurogenesis as an important and emerging scientific discipline.

Understanding Neurogenesis

“Neurogenesis” is the term that scientists use to demarcate to the process of the creation of neurons – the principal cells that make up the brain and larger nervous system in the animal kingdom.

To further understand how this process works, we need to understand two important concepts: neural stem cells and the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is an important structure in the brain that is involved in all sorts of central functions, including our emotions, memories, moods, and the process by which we learn new concepts. Until very recently, most researchers had settled on the idea that each individual had a finite cap governing the total number of neurons that he or she would ever have.

However, recent research has proven without a doubt that this was an incorrect assumption, and new ideas and new research would be destined to lead the way into a new theory of neurogenesis.

Over the last half decade, we have come to understand that neurons can be created. And the area of the brain most intimately involved in this process is – you guessed it – the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is precisely how the brain can undergo neurogenesis in a postpartum life context. While certain scientists even decades ago were ahead of the curve and believed this, the scientific community at large was unwilling to accept this idea. But new data has come to light that has moved this theoretical perspective into the spotlight as our base case scenario.

The Endocannabinoid System and Neurogenesis

As we have previously discussed, the endocannabinoid system is a central functional apparatus by which human physiology governs and maintains itself in a number of important capacities. In the brain, the endocannabinoid system has a wide range of important functions, including the functionality of neurotransmitters and brain chemistry.

However, recently, we have come to understand that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in cellular genesis, including neurogenesis within the brain.

One of the most important developments from a research standpoint has been the emergence of our understanding that there are two forms of administration of cannabinoids that must be appreciated: acute and chronic.

The difference between the two should be relatively obvious. Acute administration of cannabinoids is the process at a specific point in time of exposing the body to a high level of externally provided cannabinoids. Chronic administration of cannabinoids is differentiated by being distributed over a larger period of time and sustained so that the body adapts through its various cycles on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Research thus far conducted has established the fact that, while acute administration of cannabinoids at a level that exposes important endocannabinoid receptors has not shown a particular impact on neurogenesis, chronic exposure to exogenous cannabinoids has had an important impact particularly in animal studies utilizing rats.

What About Deficiency?

Under circumstances where an individual is suffering from a deficiency of cannabinoid exposure, research suggests that acute administration can be important. While this research is sparse at this point, the results so far shown are compelling. Ultimately, the scientific community needs to pick up the baton and run it further down the track.

There is fertile potential in the emerging field of neurogenesis for the role of cannabinoids, but more research must be conducted to firmly establish the pattern of interrelationships to allow us to mobilize it to therapeutic ends for the development and maintenance of more effective neuroscience.