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Surprise, Novelty, & Cannabis
It turns out, surprise is a significant experience for humanity. Research shows, novelty spurs a physiological reaction in the brain that can enhance and solidify memories. This is because of what occurs in your brain when something unexpected happens.
These changes occur during big events like a surprise party, and also during less intense experiences, like driving to work a different way. Science notes that even subscription boxes (like this Smoking Subscription Box from Hemper) can trigger this important physiological reaction. And it turns out, the same thing occurs in our brain when we use cannabis.
Research tells us that novelty boosts memories; let me give you an example of how. Do you remember your first kiss? Most people do.
The Surprise of a First Kiss
I have detailed memories of my first kiss. It was in an arcade and caught me entirely off guard. Even today, when I close my eyes, I can hear the video game music prattling in the background accompanied by the squeal of teenagers.
I was at the arcade with my boyfriend and two friends that day. I was staring at a video game while the others chatted. Then, I felt a tap on my shoulder, I spun around, and my boyfriend was directly in my face–like practically nose touching–with his mouth gaping open.
I jumped like a foot in the air-no joke. I was so startled I practically climbed up onto the video game next to me. He turned away visibly embarrassed.
After a second, I realized he was trying to kiss me. I awkwardly utterd, “uh wait?,” grabbed his hand, and we tried again.
I can still remember my heart pounding and I can even remember the taste of the neon green chewing gum in my mouth.
Now, I had been in that arcade hundreds of times before and after, but my first kiss is the only instance I really remember happening there.
The memories were intensified because of the novelty of the moment.
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How Novelty and Cannabis Affect the Brain
Memories intensify during your first kiss-and during all novel experiences-because activity increases in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain.
What Is the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA)?
The Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) is part of the mesolimbic pathway and is a very special part of the brain. It forms a significant portion of the brain’s “reward center”. Many things influence this area; things like food, water, exercise, and sex can all activate the VTA.
The cells within the VTA contain special synapses. These synapses are known as “dopaminergic”, because they release dopamine.
So every time something new or novel happens, this area of your brain is stimulated and these particular synapses release dopamine.
What is Dopamine
Dopamine is a very important neurotransmitter. It has a role in everything we do. It helps regulate movement, mood, and memory. It plays a part in problem solving, motivation, speech, and pleasure.
A dopamine deficiency can result in depression and other mental health disorders. A lack of dopamine is also a hallmark sign of Parkinson’s Disease.
Cannabis Also Stimulates the VTA
In addition, other drugs like opiates also activate the VTA, but scientists believe it’s via a different pathway, or cellular mechanism, than cannabinoids use.
So, could a little cannabis a day boost your memory? Only more research will tell. Now, of course keep in mind, all physiological reactions to THC are dose dependent. Take too much and not only will it not boost your memory, but it could have negative effects until the THC wears off.
The Benefits of Surprise
According to Science of the People, researchers at “Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine discovered that the pleasure centers of our brains are more active when we experience surprising positive moments.”
So if you want to keep your VTA firing and the dopamine flowing, there are plenty of ways to add a little surprise to your life. Drive to work a different way, eat at a new restaurant, or consider ordering a Hemper subscription box and get a little burst of dopamine every month.
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