How pot gives people the munchies

February 18, 2015 2:36 PM

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Greasy burgers, oily pizza, raw cookie dough -- anything's fair game for someone with the munchies, the insatiable hunger that strikes marijuana users. Now scientists have identified a surprising new brain circuit behind those pot-fueled snack attacks.The munchies are triggered in part by brain cells that normally turn down appetite, according to a new study in this week's Nature. Under the influence of pot, these circuits switch from signaling "Don't eat" to "Eat!" even if the body doesn't need any food.

At first glance, the finding was completely "nonsensical," says study author Tamas Horvath, a neurobiologist at Yale University School of Medicine. It's as if "you're driving down a hill and you brake, brake, brake, and all of a sudden the brake becomes an accelerator."

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