While the causes of bipolar affective disorder are not clear, it is thought to have a strong genetic component. It could also be related to physical changes in the brain.Magnetic resonance images (MRI) have shown that the brains of those with bipolar affective disorder have "decreases in the volume of the brain's prefrontal cortex and its subcortical connections sites, including the amygdala." The prefrontal cortex is involved in decision making and behavior, while the amygdala is responsible for emotions, mood and motivation. All of these functions are affected by bipolar disorder. Nerve cells communicate through neurochemicals at synapses. Endocannabinoids, which are naturally occurring chemicals in the body that are similar to the cannabinoids in medical marijuana, influence synaptic action and help to maintain the brain's chemical balance. Research has shown that cannabis can help restore synaptic action, reducing pain and spasticity. In a literature review, researchers from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom examined the relationship between cannabinoids and bipolar affective disorder. They concluded that both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) from medical marijuana are similar to standard medications being used to treat bipolar affective disorder. Based on this finding and the mounting evidence that THC and CBD can affect synaptic action, the researchers feel that patients with bipolar affective disorder could benefit from medical marijuana.
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