Marijuana, Glutamate, and Seizures

There are numerous medical conditions that involve the nervous system. These include things such as parkinsons disease, multiple sclerosis, down syndrome, autism, epilepsy, and others. Out of all the neurological medical conditions, epilepsy is the most common effecting 50 million people worldwide, of which 30% are not controlled by any medical treatment. This is why research concerning different forms of treatment is important. Current research shows there being numerous targets that may be used to control seizures. These other areas concerning the treatment of epilepsy are not fully understood, Here we will look a specific target concerning a neurotransmitter called glutamate, its role in the part of seizure occurrence, and the connection between marijuana, glutamate, and seizures.


What Is Glutamate ?

Glutamate is formed from the breakdown of the amino acid glutamine (13) .Glutamine plays a part in the repairing of proteins within the body, and serve as part of producing energy within specific energy systems. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that assists in mediating and controlling the firing of excititory neurons by activating specific receptors in the brain. They are said to possibly target only specific regions of the brain which are effected by epilepsy and seizures. (5) Glutamate is the most excititory neurotransmitter in the body and plays a part in both pre and post synaptic firing of neurons. It also helps with functions such as learning and memory and is a precursor to the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gaba amino butyric acid (GABA) which is what makes it important concerning epilepsy and seizures. Glutamate also works as a food enhancer in the form of mono sodium glutamate also known as MSG. This gives glutamate many functions within the body, but how is it related to epilepsy and seizures ?


Relationship between Glutamate and seizures

The occurrence of seizures and epilepsy have many factors involved concerning neurotransmitters and parts of their functioning. There are numerous targets that are being looked at in treating epilepsy and seizures. These include things such as enzymes, specific receptors, metabolites, and specific neurotransmitters. (7). It has been accepted through numerous studies that the neurotransmitter glutamate plays a key role in the instigation of seizures since it is an excititory neurotransmitter (6). Seizures can also cause an increase in the level of glutamate which can lead to damage from seizures, and is even thought to contribute to epileptogenesis or the formation of epilepsy (4). In some cases, the development of epilepsy is thought to have possible genetic factors involved. This would concern things such as gene mutations and would possibly mean specific treatments for different individuals (1). It has been shown that decreasing the level of glutamate activity can decrease seizures in animals and is thought to do so in humans as well, This has led to some new medications being created as anti seizure medications. (6). Because of the results seen concerning the activity of glutamate on seizure occurrence, the development of more effective treatments for epilepsy and seizures looks promising, but more research should be done to confirm these findings.



Forms of treatment


There are different forms of treatment for seizures or epilepsy, but currently there is no cure. As previously mentioned, a rather large amount of individuals with epilepsy do not respond well to current medications that are available. In some cases, this is only general epilepsy or seizures, while in others, it may be chronic forms such as Lennox gastric syndrome or Dravettes syndrome. In many cases with these forms of epilepsy, the individual may even be suffering from status epilepticus which is continuously occurring seizures. Other than medications that are provided, other treatments such as VNS or vegal nerve stimulation is available. This is where any individual that senses a seizure about to occur can scan a device across a implanted device having to do with the vagal nerve, and it is supposed to prevent the seizure. Operation is also available for anyone with a very serious condition. Recently there has been research on the effects of cannabis on epilepsy and if it can be used as a form of treatment. Due to the effects of the parts of the plant on the brain, it is said to effect the level of activity of different neurotransmitters and may be useful in preventing seizures. So does cannabis have any effect on the neurotransmitter glutamate, and if so, how does it work ?


Cannabinoids & Glutamate

There are two main parts to the cannabis plant that have been looked at, both of which play a part in the changes within the brain during its use. These are what is known as CBD and THC. In many studies the THC has been shown to be anti convulsant in treating seizures in unhealthy animals, but in some healthy animals, it can be pro convulsant or trigger seizures as well. (2). The decrease in seizures seen is possibly due to a decrease in glutamate seen when THC was used. (8). but more studies on humans should be conducted to see if there are similar effects.

The effects of THC also control the release of both GABA and glutamate, increasing the amount of glutamate released (10). This can lead to a decrease in functional activity depending on the amount of THC consumed, while causing other conditions as well. (11) Because of this, CBD may be able to help more in decreasing seizures in humans, but more research concerning THC and glutamate should be done. Using the CBD for treatment, it is said to have neuroprotective properties through decreasing the release of glutamate, assisting with epilepsy (3,9) and other conditions as well (12)




There are numerous targets that have been looked at when considering new treatments for epilepsy and seizures since many medications have no effect on patient. The excititory neurotransmitter glutamate is important in the functioning of other neurotransmitters such as the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Since glutamate is a precursor it may effect the amount of GABA released, showing the importance in controlling seizures and epilepsy. Controlling the release of glutamate has been shown to assist in treating seizures, with a decrease in glutamate decreasing the frequency of seizures (6). There have been some new medications that restrict the release of glutamate, and since CBD in the cannabis plant has been shown to decrease glutamate as well (9), this may be only one of many ways that cannibis may help in the treatment of epilepsy and seizures.