Why Does Weed Make You Hungry?

If you’ve ever smoked weed, chances are you've felt pretty hungry afterwards. Maybe you even said, “I’m starving” as you plowed through a Nachos BellGrande, a Quesarito Combo, and a Crunchwrap Supreme.

Well, you were right—you were starving. Or at least, your body thought you were. And that's because of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, which is the main psychoactive component in marijuana.

A 2015 study conducted on mice by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that THC flipped a switch in the rodents' brain circuitry, making them feel hungry rather than full.

“By observing how the appetite center of the brain responds to marijuana, we were able to see what drives the hunger brought about by cannabis and how that same mechanism that normally turns off feeding becomes a driver of eating,” said Tamas Horvath, the study's lead author.

“It’s like pressing a car’s brakes and accelerating instead,” Horvath explained. “We were surprised to find that the neurons we thought were responsible for shutting down eating, were suddenly being activated and promoting hunger, even when you are full. It fools the brain’s central feeding system.”

Assuming that THC has a similar effect on humans, it's easy to understand how smoking weed would produce insatiable cravings for anything and everything.

But that’s not the only science at work when it comes to getting the munchies: THC also binds to cannabinoid receptors known as CB1s in the brain's olfactory bulb, making food aromas more intense, which increases your perception of flavor. So not only are you convinced that you’re ravenous, but things smell and taste better than they do when you’re not high, which is kind of a double whammy.

While this all may be a little annoying if you’re trying to cut back on your fast-food intake, the link between hunger and THC is potentially great news for people who have trouble eating due to illness or other medical reasons. For instance, marijuana has been shown to be an effective appetite stimulant in cancer patients. If researchers know exactly what causes that appetite surge, they may be able to use the munchies to benefit those who need it.

Koalas Aren’t Bears, So Why Do People Call Them ‘Koala Bears’?

Arnaud_Martinez/iStock via Getty Images
Arnaud_Martinez/iStock via Getty Images

If you—with no prior knowledge of koalas or pouched animals in general—spotted a tree-climbing, leaf-munching, fur-covered creature in the wild, you might assume it was a small bear. That’s essentially what happened in the 18th century, and it’s the reason we still call koalas “bears” today, even when we know better.

In the late 1700s, English-speaking settlers happened upon a small animal in Australia that looked like a small, gray bear with a pouch. It was soon given the scientific name Phascolarctos cinereus, which is derived from Greek words meaning “ash-gray pouched bear.” Essentially, naturalists had named the unknown animal based on its appearance and behavior, and people didn’t realize until later that the presence of a pouch is a dead giveaway that an animal is definitely not a bear.

According to Live Science, koalas and bears both belong to the same class, Mammalia (i.e. they’re mammals). Then their taxonomic branches diverge: koalas belong to an infraclass called Marsupialia. Marsupials, unlike bears, give birth to their offspring when they’re still underdeveloped, and then carry them around in pouches. Even if koalas look just as cuddly as bear cubs, they’re much more closely related to other marsupials like kangaroos and wombats.

Over time, people adopted a name that the Aboriginal Darug people in Australia used for the animal, koala.

But bear still stuck as a modifier, and scientists never went back and replaced arctos (from arktos, Greek for bear) in its genus Phascolarctos with something more accurate. So, technically speaking, koalas are still called bears, even by scientists.

Wondering how you can help the lovable non-bears survive Australia’s wildfires? Here are 12 ideas.

[h/t Live Science]

Good Moos: Science Says Cows Have Unique Voices

BilevichOlga/iStock via Getty Images
BilevichOlga/iStock via Getty Images

As fans of The Far Side have long suspected, cows are possessed of rich interior lives and are prone to conversation when humans aren’t around. While that comic strip may be taking certain creative liberties, it turns out that bovines really do have distinct “voices.” New research shows that cows can produce their own unique moos.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, recruited 18 Holstein-Friesian heifers (virgin cows) at Wolverton Farm in New South Wales, Australia, and had them vocalize into a microphone. The study’s authors wanted to see how their mooing was affected by a variety of circumstances, like when heifers were in heat, when they were about to eat, denied food, parted from the herd but within sight, or parted and out of sight.

The results? Each cow warbled a different moo with an acoustic structure that was distinct from its peers and maintained that sound throughout the different scenarios. These high-frequency noises may someday help farmers sort out a cow’s contentment or displeasure with their surroundings. Previously, few researchers had studied whether cows maintained their vocal characteristics in different social settings.

It will take additional work to figure out precisely what a cow might be displeased with—the animals are relatively stoic and not prone to emotional outbursts—but the research is a step forward to a time when we might be able to identify their feelings and address the cause of their bad moooods.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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