A team of researchers led by Giovanni Marsicano at NeuroCenter Magendie (Inserm/Université de Bordeaux) published a study in Nature yesterday on the impact of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on the metabolism of cellular glucose, which can affect social behavior. The researchers described how THC activates CB1 receptors found on mitochondrial membranes within astrocytes, and that this interaction leads to reductions in the production of lactate and dysfunctions in neuronal glucose metabolism. In murine models, this dysfunction was associated with self-isolating behavior. Mice treated with THC spent more time in their cage physically separated from other mice when compared with control mice. The phenomenon was reversed with the administration of lactate.
The study reveals not only that the communication between neurons and astrocytes can impact social behavior, but that the psychological effects of cannabis have neurological correlates beyond synaptic signaling.