The first time I ever got high I woke up the next morning with a giant pregnant belly full of Doritos. This happened the second time, too. And the third… Many stoners can relate to the need to eat anything and everything pretty soon after getting high, and researchers have been pretty stumped as to why this happens, until now, as a study reported on by NPR shows.
There are a cluster of neurons called the POMC neurons in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain associated with basic instincts. These neurons communicate with your stomach and send the message to your brain that says ‘ok, you’re full now, stop eating.’ In the past, when scientists stopped these neurons from firing in the brains of rats, the rats became morbidly obese within weeks, so it would make sense if smoking marijuana shuts these neurons up for a little while, but scientists have found the complete opposite.
When scientists injected mice with cannabinoids, the POMC neurons sped up, and a receptor inside the POMC neuron cluster started releasing endorphins, a neurotransmitter that’s known to increase appetite. Suddenly all the neurons telling you to stop eating start telling you to eat more.
This study is pretty innovative, and the idea that a neuron can suddenly flip from one function to the complete opposite is very new, and it may lead to new knowledge on overeating in general.
One issue with the study, of course, is that it looked at mouse brains, not human ones. While the scientists cannot be 100% positive that human brains act the same way, many medical and scientific studies are done on mice and rats before humans, as our nervous systems and brain structure are relatively similar. Scientists are almost positive that human brains react to THC the same ways that mouse brains do, and that they have found the neurological reason for ‘the munchies.’
The science of the munchies does not start and end with the POMC neurons. In previous studies, scientists have found that cannabis makes mice more sensitive to smells – that ‘oh my god, that pizza smells amazing, I’m going to eat the whole thing’ feeling. They also saw an increase in dopamine in the brain – the chemical that makes everything (including eating) feel so good.
There’s a lot going on in the brain, and it’s hard to determine a single cause for a single phenomenon, but one thing is for sure – fucking lab mice got it easy. Smoking weed and snacking in some cushy research station somewhere while I got to work everyday. I got gypped on my reincarnation.