The brain’s endocannabinoid system could be the missing piece of the puzzle

Genes link bipolar, schizophrenia, once thought unrelated disorders

Genetics have been the missing piece of the complex puzzle that has for decades been puzzling the scientific community as bipolar disorder was thought to be a completely different disease.

In recent decades scientists have uncovered the first piece of the puzzle, but not all of the pieces have been in place.

The research also reveals how the genes and their expression patterns influence each other to create a more coherent picture of the illness.

Scientists have known from molecular studies that the body’s endocannabinoid system is significantly enhanced during the manic phase of mania, when people with bipolar disorder are known to be manic.

This research into a novel receptor that interacts directly with the endocannabinoid system opens the door to a greater understanding about how the body’s own endocannabinoid system influences the brain.

As the team conducted its investigation, it noted that the presence of this receptor might potentially explain why mania was so common in people suffering from bipolar disorder.

We now know it may also be the missing piece of the puzzle about schizophrenia.

“Although we know a lot about the endocannabinoid system, there is still much more to discover about how this system impacts our brain,” said Dr Tomislav Vujicic, who is in a senior research role in the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

“In the past, researchers have assumed the endocannabinoid system was only present in brain and peripheral tissues, but this is just a piece of the puzzle.

“We have not yet discovered the brain’s endocannabinoid system, though it is now much more clear how the system works in the brain.”

When a person with bipolar disorder is manic, a chemical messenger — endocannabinoid — that is released in the body appears to be the “switch” to switch the mind off from reality.

It could explain why a person with mania feels a sense of euphoria, though researchers have yet to know how this chemical messenger actually works as it takes effect.

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