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Neurological disorders

Use of cannabinoids in the treatment of neurological disorders

We aim to undertake research to determine the efficacy of phytocannabinoids in the treatment of currently incurable neurological diseases.

What is a neurological disorder?

Neurological disorders are diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system; that is, the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, peripheral nerves, nerve roots, autonomic nervous system, neuromuscular junction, and muscles. Structural, biochemical or electrical abnormalities in the brain, spinal cord or other nerves can result in a range of symptoms such as paralysis, muscle weakness, poor coordination, loss of sensation, seizures, confusion, pain and altered levels of consciousness.

The list of recognised neurological disorders is long, and includes Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Dravet syndrome, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when 70 percent of the brain's dopamine producing cells stop working normally, causing tremors, slow movement and rigidity. Parkinson’s disease drug treatments are designed to control the symptoms. They do this by increasing the levels of dopamine that reach the brain and or stimulate areas in the brain where dopamine is working. Studies have shown that cannabidiol can improve motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. Benefits include a possible improvement in pain management, sleep dysfunction, weight loss and nausea. People with Parkinson’s disease also have fewer CB1 receptors than people who do not. A boost to the CB1 receptor through an agonist, like medicinal cannabis, can improve tremors and may alleviate involuntary muscle movements.

The world’s population is ageing and many individuals are faced with an increased risk of developing dementia. Dementia affects around 35 million people worldwide and there are limited treatment options. Emerging literature shows that cannabidiol has the potential to enhance memory by limiting brain pathology observed in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. This research area is being accelerated and expanded by the Lambert Initiative.

Cerebral palsy is currently an incurable disorder. Its symptoms range from mild spastic movements to severe seizures and the inability to control and use limbs. While research for a cure is still being conducted, scientists are also focused developing effective treatment to help control the disorder’s symptoms. Research on medicinal cannabis and cerebral palsy is limited, but findings from previous studies suggest that it offers a host of benefits, including pain control, reduction of painful muscle spasms, control of partial seizures, and more.

The use of cannabinoids has been suggested as being able to assist with managing neurological and non-neurological conditions. Cannabidiol is already known to reduce seizures such as those seen in paediatric epilepsy. Some researchers think that medicinal cannabis might also be neuroprotective.

Our aim is to undertake further research to determine the efficacy of phytocannabinoids in the treatment of other currently incurable neurological diseases. Further preclinical and clinical research is needed to better characterise the pharmacological, physiological and therapeutic effects of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of neurological disorders.

Upcoming research projects

  • Cannabinoids and dementia
  • Cannabinoids and Parkinson’s disease
  • Cannabinoids and cerebral palsy