Yo, what’s up fam? It’s your boy Dan, and today we’re talking about how that good good herb affects our senses. You know what I’m talking about – that sweet Mary Jane that makes everything taste better and music sound like heaven. But how does it actually work? Let’s dive into the science of THC and other cannabinoids and how they interact with our taste, sight, smell, touch, and hearing.
Now let’s get into it. If you’ve ever smoked weed before, you know that it can really change the way you experience the world around you. Suddenly, that song you’ve heard a million times has new depths and hidden harmonies that you never noticed before. And don’t even get me started on the munchies – everything tastes like heaven when you’re high. But why is that?
Well, it turns out that compounds from cannabis interact with receptors found close to or within all of our sensory organs. Our senses allow us to experience the world around us; they transmit signals from external sources and send them off through the nervous system into the brain where our biological computer uses these signals to build a picture of our surroundings. Our senses help us perform everyday tasks like using a keyboard or stove top to driving and conversing with others.
Humans possess five primary senses in the form of taste, touch, hearing, sight, and smell. The sensory organs correspond to each of these senses (our eyes enable us to see and our ears to hear) and serve as vantage points into the outside world. Each of our sensory organs possesses specialized cells that help turn environmental signals into electrical information transmitted by the nervous system – for example, as light enters the eyes and hits the retina, photoreceptors convert the light into electrical signals.
So how does cannabis interact with the body? Through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are able to change cellular activity by binding directly to receptors or altering enzyme function. Endogenous cannabinoids created by the body (known as endocannabinoids) play the role of signaling molecules (neurotransmitters) within the ECS, whereas external cannabinoids share a similar structure to such compounds which enables them to work in a similar manner.
Components of the ECS are particularly abundant in the central nervous system, where they help to control neurotransmitter flow, mood, appetite, and memory. As a ubiquitous part of our biological computer, the ECS also plays a role in regulating sensory processing in areas including the olfactory and visual systems. Given that the ECS plays an important role in the way we perceive the world, and that cannabinoids from the cannabis plant are able to modulate this system, it becomes ever-more intriguing to investigate the effects of cannabis and its constituents on specific senses.
So let’s break it down by sense:
Taste: We all know that weed makes food taste better. Researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Japan found endocannabinoids to act directly on taste receptors in the tongue in a way that enhances sweet flavors. Interestingly, these researchers found that endocannabinoids had no impact on the perception of other tastes such as sour, salty, bitter, and umami.
Touch: Not much research has been done on how cannabis affects touch, but a survey conducted by the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 74% of participants reported that weed increased their sensitivity to touch.
Hearing: Music sounds better when you’re high, right? Researchers from University College in London found high-THC cannabis to dampen the effect of music in brain regions associated with reward and emotion. However, bringing CBD into the equation offset these effects – a testimony to the entourage effect. Cannabis likely augments the neurochemical changes that occur when we listen to music.
Sight: The science surrounding the impact of cannabis on vision remains early and inconclusive. A case study performed back in 2004 suggests that cannabis consumption could help to improve night vision, but more scientifically robust findings obtained by researchers at the University of Granada show that cannabis may significantly alter visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, three-dimensional vision, and the ability of the eyes to focus.
Smell: The research on how cannabis affects smell is also inconclusive. Animal studies have shown that cannabis administration could boost odor detection and subsequently increase food intake, but human trials tell a different story. A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology administered 20mg of oral THC to fifteen healthy volunteers and found that olfactory function decreased following the dose.
So there you have it – while weed won’t necessarily supercharge all of your senses, it can certainly make your favorite foods and songs even better. Keep blazing, fam.