Science

Inverse Daily: Why anxious people smoke marijuana

The results of a new study could pave the way to future treatments.

Hello!

My name is Greta Moran, and I’m the new writer of Inverse Daily, your essential source for the latest in science and technology. Thank you Nick Lucchesi for giving this newsletter wings!

A bit about me? Well, like you, I quite possibly originated from another star system, by way of planetary rock, billions of years ago. That’s, at least, according to panspermia, a popular theory of the origins of life on Earth, which recently gained some fresh evidence thanks to a 2017 meteor encounter. Inverse writer Passant Rabie can tell you all about this theory. I find it very humbling to think that we all just hitched a ride to Earth and became the sort of guests who never leave!

But hey, it can be hard being the guest of a strange, messy planet like Earth. If you’re stressed out, you might want to smoke some weed. Relaxing is a big motivator for smoking weed, which you can read up on here.

Anyway, Inverse has a lot more in store for you this week. I’m excited to be your interstellar guide to some of our most exciting articles. More on that below 👇

This article is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day.

INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It turns out, nature is more imaginative than we are.”

— Abraham Loeb, a theoretical physicist at Harvard.

Oldest material ever discovered on Earth found in Australian meteorite

On September 28, 1969, a large meteorite crash landed near Murchison, Victoria in Australia. Scientists have long used the meteorite to uncover clues to the early history of the universe, and now a team of researchers at the University of Chicago found the oldest solid material ever discovered on Earth in its rocky core. Presolar grains, or minerals that formed before the solar system, were collected from the Murchison meteorite 30 years ago.

The grains contained stardust, or the material leftover by the stellar explosions that mark the end of a star’s life, which are also known as supernova. The scientists then measured the age of this ancient stardust by measuring its exposure to cosmic rays, or streams of particles emitted by galaxies in outer space.

The data revealed that most of the stardust found in the meteorite dates back 4.6 to 4.9 billion years ago, with some even dating back to 5.5 billion years. The stardust predates the solar system, which began to form 4.6 billion years ago. The findings can help scientists build a more accurate timeline of star formation in the Milky Way and trace back the history of our galaxy through stellar nurseries.

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Study on rare sexual arousal disorder points at cause — and new cure

People with persistent genital arousal disorder live their lives on edge. The rare condition can cause random sexual stimulation at any time that often can’t be soothed. Some women describe the condition as “painful and embarrassing” and others have taken their own lives because of the distress it can cause.

A small study suggests a cure may be in sight:

An estimated one percent of women globally have PGAD, and scientists believe that there are a few different things that could cause the condition — psychological factors were once a leading consideration. But a new theory posits that lesions at the base of the spine could apply pressure on nerves related to sexual stimulation. Usually those lesions consist of tarlov cysts, tiny sacs of cerebrospinal fluid that form on sensory nerves at the base of the spine.

A study released last week suggests that neurological interventions that target nerves at the base of the spine could hold promise for curing PGAD. In one patient, a team of scientists at Mass General report that they were able to “cure” her PGAD symptoms through surgical intervention on those tarlov cysts.

This surgery may not work for everyone, but the team suggests that it’s a step in the right direction — namely because it shows that neurology, and not psychology, probably holds the key to beating PGAD once and for all.

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Scientists discover the reason why anxious people smoke marijuana

When people get stressed, some take a bath, bust their butt in the gym, or zone out to Schitt’s Creek. Other’s smoke weed or take CBD. Relaxing is one of the primary motivators for using marijuana, research shows. Now, scientists have discovered a stress-busting brain molecule that may explain why anxious people turn to cannabis to relieve their woes.

The molecule, called 2-AG, dampens communication between two areas of the brain: the amygdala, the brain’s emotional processor and the prefrontal cortex, its decision-maker. Disrupting communication between these regions might seem harmful, but in fact, it helps reduce spikes of anxiety relating to stress. It turns out, cannabis affects these communication pathways through the endocannabinoid system, causing a similar calming effect.

The study, which was conducted in mice, suggests people might be using cannabis to manage their anxiety because they’re lacking 2-AG. Therapies that boost 2-AG levels, and keep amygdala-prefrontal communication in check, could help these people cope with stress.

“The hope would be that this would allow one to experience some of the beneficial effects people use medical cannabis for, in terms of anxiety and stress-relief, without some of the side effects,” study author Sachin Patel tells Inverse.

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Study links burnout to a deadly consequence

It frankly makes me a little stressed just reading this week’s article on burnout.

A new study finds that persistent stress can manifest in burnout, clinically known as “vital exhaustion.” The phenomenon can make you miserable and also heightens the risk of developing heart arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation (Afib) by up to 20 percent. “Burnout can threaten otherwise healthy people’s cardiac function, making their heart misfire and damaging heart tissue, too,” writes Inverse’s Ali Pattillo.

Vital exhaustion is becoming a “growing epidemic,” according to the study, but the tricky thing is that it’s difficult to identify. It’s not exactly clear when regular exhaustion becomes potentially life-extinguishing burnout.

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Science, Unpacked

There’s been a lot of viral posts about wombats shepherding other animals into their burrows amidst the Australian bushfires. I know we all want to believe in the supreme empathy of wombats, but this idea has yet to be substantiated, according to an article in IFLScience. However, it’s very possible that the animals are sharing the wombats’ burrows (just without a special Wombat escort).

Meanwhile …

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That’s all for today!

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