CBD & Memory: New Research Shows CBD Increases Blood Flow to Brain’s Hippocampus

Most of the time, cannabis is associated with memory loss. But researchers’ recent findings show CBD could positively impact conditions that adversely affect memory, including Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While CBD is just one of the many cannabinoids available for extraction from the cannabis plant, the studies reveal its many uses. Unlike its psychoactive cousin, this cannabinoid doesn’t offer psychoactive euphoric effects.

A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology was put in motion to determine how CBD impacts cerebral blood flow throughout the brain. The goal was to determine if CBD influences any regions in the brain involving memory processing.

The lead in this study, Dr. Michael Bloomfield (UCL Psychiatry), claims, “Cannabidiol is one of the main constituents of cannabis and is gaining interest for its therapeutic potential.”

“There is evidence that CBD may help reduce symptoms of psychosis and anxiety,” continues Dr. Bloomfield. “There is some evidence to suggest that CBD may improve memory function. Additionally, CBD changes how the brain processes emotional memories, which could help to explain its reputed therapeutic effects on PTSD and other psychiatric disorders. However, the precise mechanics underlying the effects of CBD on memory are unclear.”

During the controlled study, the researchers chose 15 healthy young adults as participants. These subjects had little or no history of cannabis use, as well.

Each participant was administered 600mg of oral CBD or a placebo on different occasions, separated by a minimum of one week. These doses were in identical capsules, and the study did not inform the participants of which capsule they were taking on each occasion.

After administering the capsules, the researchers measured the blood flow to the hippocampus. This was performed using ‘arterial spin labeling,’ or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scanning technique that measures blood oxygen level changes.

So What Did They Find?

The researchers noticed CBD significantly increased the blood flow to the hippocampus. But even though the blood flow in this region increased, the blood flow in other areas located in the medial temporal lobe (MTL) did not increase.

The prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain that handles planning and decision-making. Blood flow significantly increased in the orbitofrontal cortex.

Dr. Bloomfield further explained, “To our knowledge, this is the first study to find that CBD increases blood flow to key regions involved in memory processing, particularly the hippocampus.”

“This supports the view that CBD has region-specific blood flow effects in the human brain, which has previously been disputed,” he highlighted.

Dr. Bloomfield pondered, “If replicated, these results could lead to further research across a range of conditions characterized by changes in how the brain processes memories, including Alzheimer’s disease, where there are defects in the control of blood control flow, along with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Limitations of the Study

Since the study involved the administration of a single dose of CBD to healthy volunteers, the effects of repeated CBD dosing might not offer the same results. Thus, the need for additional tests is essential as this research does not conclusively show CBD as an acute memory-enhancing compound.

At this point, the study highlights the need to examine new research directions and investigate the possibility that CBD can be used to treat neurological conditions relating to region-specific blood flow abnormalities.