CBD and Neurogenesis: Can CBD Grow Your Brain?

x-ray of the brain

According to studies, the endocannabinoid system and CBD seem to play essential parts in brain health, particularly, in the regulation of neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the process that creates new brain tissue, which may have the potential to remedy certain conditions. Preliminary research shows that CBD may promote neurogenesis, indicating that it may be useful in treating certain neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and anxiety.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Neurogenesis?
  2. The Benefits of Neurogenesis
  3. Neurogenesis May Prevent Cognitive Deficits Associated With Age
  4. Neurogenesis May Improve Memory
  5. Neurogenesis Contributes to Healthy Brain Function
  6. How CBD Affects Neurogenesis
  7. Alzheimer’s Disease and CBD
  8. Anxiety Disorders and CBD
  9. CBD Enhances Neurogenesis

What is Neurogenesis?

Neurogenesis is the growth and development of neurons.

Neurogenesis primarily occurs in two areas of the brain: the subventricular zone (a source of stem cells) and the subgranular zone, which is part of the hippocampus (responsible for emotion, memory, and connected to the nervous system).

The subventricular zone is where neuroblasts are formed.

These neuroblasts are cells that help create nervous tissue.

For a long time, it was believed that nerves did not regenerate in adulthood.

However, this notion was challenged in the 1960s and now it is confirmed that adult brains are capable of producing and growing new nervous tissue.

cbd and neurogenesis infographic

The Benefits of Neurogenesis

The process of neurogenesis is a relatively new discovery, so research on its role in brain health is limited. 

However, several benefits seem to stem from neurogenesis.

Neurogenesis May Prevent Cognitive Deficits Associated With Age

One benefit of neurogenesis is that it may prevent cognitive decline that comes with age.

In a study by The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, researchers decided to test the effects of exercise on neurogenesis in aged mice.

In preliminary research, the researchers found that neurogenesis diminishes with age, which seems to contribute to cognitive deficits.

However, the results of the study showed that exercise in aged mice enhanced neurogenesis in the hippocampus. 

This enhanced neurogenesis led to an increased ability to learn in the aged mice.

Researchers concluded that exercise could restore neurogenesis and help prevent cognitive decline associated with age.

Neurogenesis May Improve Memory

Neurogenesis may also help improve memory.

A review by The Salk Institute analyzed scientific literature on the role of adult hippocampal neurogenesis and the mechanisms underlying it.

This review found that neurogenesis occurs in a portion of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus (the subgranular zone is a part of the dentate gyrus). 

The dentate gyrus is responsible for pattern separation, helping the brain distinguish between similar memories, such as where you put your car keys yesterday as compared to today.

The researchers found that neurogenesis seems to have strong associations with memory and learning, demonstrating that newborn neurons are used to encode new information.

Neurogenesis Contributes to Healthy Brain Function

Neurogenesis may also play a more broad role as an essential component of healthy brain function.

A 2013 study led by the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden suggests neurogenesis contributes to healthy brain function, such as cognitive adaptability and pattern separation.

The researchers found that because neurogenesis is so abundant in the hippocampus (the hub for cognitive functions, such as memory and learning), neurogenesis may play a large role in cognitive adaptability.

Cognitive adaptability is a person’s capacity to change the way he or she makes decisions when given feedback (i.e., to learn).

How CBD Affects Neurogenesis

The endocannabinoid system seems to play a significant role in regulating neurogenesis.

For instance, mice lacking CB1 receptors experienced 50% less neurogenesis compared to wild-type control mice. 

Additionally, activating CB2 receptors was discovered to increase the proliferation of neuronal progenitors (i.e., cells that will develop into nerve cells).

Since the endocannabinoid system affects neurogenesis, CBD seems to as well.

A 2013 study led by researchers from the University of São Paulo showed that CBD promotes hippocampal neurogenesis by indirectly activating CB1 receptors. 

CBD enhances levels of anandamide (an endocannabinoid that activates CB1), which increases CB1 activation.

Activation of the cannabinoid receptors seems to enhance the brain’s healing mechanisms, such as promoting the production of neurotrophins. 

Neurotrophins are proteins that help neurons function, develop, and survive.

CBD’s ability to promote neurogenesis makes it a viable treatment for some neurological diseases.

Alzheimer’s Disease and CBD

quote: CBD's ability to promote neurogenesis makes it a viable treatment for some neurological diseases

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder where neurons in the brain are killed and the brain shrinks. 

The death of nerve cells leads to dementia.

However, since CBD not only protects neurons but also promotes the production and growth of nervous tissue, it is a prime candidate for treating Alzheimer’s.

CBD’s interaction with CB1 and CB2 to promote neurogenesis offers the potential for slowing Alzheimer’s disease progression and helping patients maintain cognitive health for longer.

Anxiety Disorders and CBD

Patients with certain anxiety disorders, such as generalized social phobia, have been shown to have smaller hippocampuses than healthy people.

Anxiety seems to degenerate the hippocampus as a result of neurotoxicity, potentially from excessive glutamate (a neurotransmitter).

CB1 receptors are known to affect mood, memory, and emotions, which are the same aspects that the hippocampus controls.

Increasing the activation of CB1 leads to good feelings and generally improved mood. 

Since CBD indirectly activates CB1 receptors, CBD may promote growth of the hippocampus and relieve anxiety.

CBD Enhances Neurogenesis

Neurogenesis seems to be a crucial element to a healthy brain, especially when it comes to memory and learning. 

Scientific evidence shows that CBD can enhance neurogenesis, which bolsters its case as a therapy for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety disorders, and potentially, several more conditions.

As research expands on both subjects, CBD may become a preferential treatment option for disorders that would benefit from increased neurogenesis.

Have you witnessed an increase in cognitive function, personally or in others, with CBD? If so, what were your results? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

Disclaimer: The content on this site is for informational purposes only. We are not medical experts and nothing should be construed as medical advice. Be sure to speak with your physician before taking CBD or any other treatment.