Anandamide: the effect of this neurotransmitter on the brain

Serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, glutamate … they are among the best known and most popular neurotransmitters among those that travel through our body’s nervous system, allowing neurons to communicate with each other. But they are not the only ones.

And there are a lot of substances that we don’t talk about so often and yet play an important role in our daily life. One of them is anandamide, Which we will talk about throughout this article.

    Anandamide: What is this substance?

    Anandamide, also known as arachidonoylethanolamide or AEA, is one of the many chemical compounds our bodies make endogenously. It is an endogenous lipid with a high affinity for cannabinoid receptors. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most well-known eicosanoid endocannabinoids (fatty acid derivatives) and the second most abundant. Discovered in 1992, the name of this lipid is derived from the Sanskrit word for happiness or peace-bearer, “ananda”, due to the effects and relaxation it generates, and is composed of arachidonic acid and ethanolamine. .

    Short-lived and easily degradable, anandamide is a fragile molecule whose effects are short-lived in the human body. This substance is linked, like the rest of cannabinoids, to sedation, reduction of vomiting and inducing hunger, improvement of respiratory function and relaxation. as well as some problems with concentration, perception of time and even memory.

    It is a substance that is not produced in a particular region of the brain, but it is secreted by the membrane of neurons, And has been localized in different regions of the body, both inside and outside the brain. It is common in the thalamus, hippocampus, basal ganglia and cerebellum, as well as in the spleen and heart. Its receptors are therefore widely distributed, linked to the G protein.

    On the other hand, anandamide it can also be acquired by consuming different foods. Some of its best-known natural sources are cocoa and chocolate, with hehcho anandamide being one of the main elements that make it so enjoyable for most people. Likewise, it is present in some fish and their eggs, or in sea urchins.

    Synthesis and absorption of anandamide

    Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that originates in the membrane of neurons from the hydrolysis of its precursor, a phospholipid called N-arachidonoyl phosphatylethanolamine (or neck) derived from the archedonic acid of this membrane. This synthesis occurs thanks to the enzyme phospholipase DAlso joining with ethanolamine to eventually form anandamide. Anandamide is characterized by the fact that it only generates it when it needs to be released, unlike other neurotransmitters which are previously manufactured and stored until the moment of its transmission. It is usually generated by the postsynaptic neuron, in a retrograde fashion, generating stimulation or inhibition of neurotransmitter production in presynaptics.

    At this point, this substance is released into the synaptic space, where it is then received by neurons and glial cells. Once captured, ethanolamine and arachidonic acid are degraded and then reincorporated into membrane lipids. This substance is then rapidly metabolized by the body and disappears in a short time.

    Functions of anandamide

    Anandamide is a very useful substance for our body, which plays an important role in the functioning of our brain and our body. While many of them have already been mentioned above, we’ll take a closer look at them. Among the many functions or roles of anandamide, the following stand out.

    1. Homeostasis

    As part of the endocannabinoid system, Anandamide plays an important role in the maintenance of body homeostasis, by influencing and modulating nerve transmission and by interacting with several systems and neurotransmitters. Among other things, it can inhibit the synthesis of GABA and glutamate. It is also involved in lowering eye pressure.

    2. Modulates pain

    Like other cannabinoids, one of the main and most recognized functions of cannabinoids is to modulate and generate a decrease in the sensation of pain when faced with an injury, Having an analgesic effect.

    3. They prevent cell proliferation

    Another of the actions exerted by anandamide, and which in fact continues to be studied and arouses great interest today, is the fact that its action prevents or decreases the cell proliferation of cancer cells, causing the death of these cells. . This has been particularly studied in melanoma.

    4. It has a neuroprotective effect

    Cannabinoids also have a neuroprotective effect by having the ability to decrease the excitement of the nervous system, which in turn has protective effects against excitotoxicity.

    5. Stimulates hunger

    Anandamide and all endocannabinoids modify and modulate the diet, being in close interaction with leptin. While the latter is one of the main hormones that regulate satiety, anandamide stimulates appetite and generates the search for food. Anandamide would generate an effect in the form of loss or decrease in appetite. If an increase in leptin occurs, this results in reduced levels of anandamide in the hypothalamus.

    6. It has an antiemetic effect

    As with cannabis, anandamide has an antiemetic effect. In other words, it inhibits vomiting by interacting with serotonin.

    7. Modulates sexual behavior

    One of the interactions of anandamide is with sex hormones. Apparently, in this sense, anandamide has a biphasic response: small amounts stimulate sexual activity, while high doses inhibit it.

    8. Influence pregnancy

    Some studies associate a very relevant role for anandamide in the generation implantation of the embryo in the epithelium of the uterus.

    9. Participate in motivation

    In experiments with mice, it has been observed that anandamide apparently contributes to motivation and decision-making, speeding up and generating a greater capacity for action and reaction in order to seek solutions.

    10. A role in learning and memory

    How anandamide works in the brain has also been observed related to learning ability and memoryOften associated with areas that manage memory, such as the hippocampus. In principle, it facilitates the creation of new brain connections and the elimination of old ones. However, some animal models seem to indicate that it can cause memory problems.

    11. Link with feelings of relaxation and happiness

    The name of this substance, as we said at the beginning of the article, is related to the idea of ​​peace, relaxation and happiness. It is associated with pleasure. It also generates a distortion of temporal perception.

    bibliographical references

    • Escobar, IE; Berrouet, MC and González, DM (2009). Molecular mechanisms of marijuana addiction. Catalan Society of Psychiatry, 38 (1).
    • Spanish Cannabinoid Research Society (2002). Basic guide to cannabinoids. Ministry of the Interior. Spain.
    • Zone, LC; Fry, BR; LaLonde, JA and Cromw, HC (2017). Effects of the administration of anandamide on the components of the treatment of the rewards during the free choice. Biochemical Pharmacology and Behavior, 158: 14-21.

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