Decoding the Craving: Cannabis Study Reveals the Science Behind the ‘Munchies’

Ever wondered what causes the “munchies” after cannabis use? For the first time, scientists have identified exactly what happens in the brain after using cannabis that triggers the “munchies,” a new federally funded study shows. Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) published the findings in the journal Scientific Reports, revealing how cannabis activates a specific cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus region of the brain that stimulates appetite.

Breaking it down scientifically, the study showed that the “pharmacological activation of CB1R attenuated inhibitory synaptic tone onto hunger-promoting Agouti Related Peptide (AgRP) neurons within the MBH,” or mediobasal hypothalamus. The authors concluded, “Based on these results, we conclude that MBH neurons contribute to the appetite stimulatory properties of inhaled cannabis.”

In simpler terms, inhaling cannabis affects specific neurons, increasing appetite. Jon Davis, an assistant professor of neuroscience at WSU, emphasized, “There is something significant happening in the hypothalamus after vapor cannabis.”

The hunger-inducing effects of cannabis have been recognized for centuries, but the biological mechanisms underlying this process remained largely unknown until now. By understanding how cannabis stimulates appetite-related neurons, researchers hope to pave the way for medical applications beyond recreational use.

The study’s choice to employ vaporized whole-plant cannabis, as opposed to injected THC, not only improves the precision in depicting brain activity relevant to cannabis consumers but also represents a notable stride in demystifying the intricate ways in which the brain responds to cannabis.

Jaeger, K. (2024) Scientists discover the exact reason marijuana causes the ‘munchies’ in new federally funded study, Marijuana Moment.

Wheeler EC, Choi P, De Howitt J, et al. Cannabis Sativa targets mediobasal hypothalamic neurons to stimulate appetite. Sci Rep. 2023;13(1):22970. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-50112-5

End of: Decoding the Craving: Cannabis Study Reveals the Science Behind the ‘Munchies’