CBD for Mental Focus
Did you know that many professional e-sports gamers take CBD to enhance their alertness and improve their mental focus? Video game competitions have been officially recognized as an e-sport where professional video gamers compete against each other to win prizes that are significant, often in the millions. What do these competing gamers need more than anything? Mental focus and alertness to keep them concentrated for hours in front of their computer screens.
As more is being revealed about the potential of CBD, new research is performed on how CBD interacts with the body and the brain. Because of CBD’s interaction with several neurotransmitters, many scientists are exploring the theory that CBD may be able to help our brains work better, faster, and more effectively for longer.
If CBD proves to be effective in sustaining brain energy and focus, it would have a similar effect to some chemical stimulants currently used. However, CBD has an advantage to many of them, as our body tolerates CBD well and is non-intoxicating and non-addictive. If CBD is proven to be a natural brain stimulant, it may someday be helpful in treating conditions such as ADHD.
How does our brain work?
Our brains work with neurotransmitters, which pass on messages between neurons. Neurotransmitters also relay messages between neurons and muscles that lead to action.
The body is home to more than 40 neurotransmitters. The most common ones are serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA, histamine, and norepinephrine.
When these neurotransmitters are in balance, the brain sends the right messages to the body and keeps all bodily functions in balance. However, when there is a chemical imbalance that leads to an excess or deficiency of a neurotransmitter, the effects are felt throughout the body.
For example, Alzheimer’s is related to a deficiency in acetylcholine. People with depression and anxiety display low levels of serotonin and dopamine. As for the muscle tremors in Parkinson’s disease, they are due to a depletion of dopamine levels.
When it comes to mental focus and alertness, neurotransmitters are essential. Our mental sharpness is closely linked to dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine.
Several brain locations are involved when we are undertaking heavy-duty brain tasks. Our sensory brain areas take in the information coming from our eyes, ears, and other senses and process them. Other parts of the brain prioritize our actions, while yet other brain areas control the overall process to let it flow seamlessly rather than randomly.
Which neurotransmitters are involved in mental health?
We are still learning how neurotransmitters work and process information in the brain. A recent discovery is that neurons don’t release only one neurotransmitter. They can switch the production of neurotransmitters depending on the situation and the brain requirements.
Serotonin regulates our mood. When serotonin is balanced, we feel content and calm, which helps our brain engage in demanding tasks.
Dopamine has been called the reward neurotransmitter. It helps us feel rewarded and pleased with our achievements, thus indirectly motivating us to do better. Dopamine is also involved in mental focus because it helps us understand and sift through information in a productive and effective way.
Norepinephrine is involved with our memory, as well as alertness. Norepinephrine helps the brain remain awake and active.
Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that helps us learn and memorize information and is highly involved in brain alertness and focus. It is no wonder that Alzheimer’s patients display low levels of acetylcholine, as a major symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss.
How does CBD interact with the brain?
Studies suggest that CBD interacts with the brain. A 2020 study review concluded that “neuroimaging studies have shown that acute CBD induces significant alterations in brain activity and connectivity patterns during resting state and performance of cognitive tasks.” Therefore, when we take CBD, it affects our brain.
This may be due to the way CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system regulates several functions including memory, mood, appetite, temperature perception, motor perception, and even reproduction.
The purpose of our ECS is to keep the body in balance. Whenever an imbalance is noticed, our ECS releases endocannabinoids to alert the body to fix the problem. For example, when we feel hot, our ECS detects the imbalance and alerts our body to start sweating to eliminate excessive heat. It also sends signals to the brain that we are thirsty and we need to drink water. Together, these two actions help our body recover its optimal temperature.
Our ECS works with two endocannabinoids—cannabinoids released by the body—called 2-AG and anandamide.
CBD has a close affinity with 2-AG and appears to work in a similar fashion. At first, it was thought that CBD directly interacts with the CBD receptors found in the body. Later research suggests that instead, it may act indirectly by pushing our ECS to work better. By making our ECS more productive and effective, CBD may help in a number of ways.
Further research suggests that CBD interacts with more than 2-AG. For instance, studies have shown that CBD interacts with serotonin receptor 5-HT1A to potentially display an anxiety-relieving effect.
Likewise, studies show that CBD seems to interact with dopamine receptors. Dopamine is linked with attention span and the ability to focus on information in an ordered way.
A 2017 study displayed that CBD also interacts with GABA receptors, potentially producing an anxiolytic effect.
What makes us focused?
There are days when we feel our brain razor-sharp and others when each thought feels like it’s trudging through mud. What do we need to stay focused and mentally alert?
To be focused, we need to feel relaxed and anxiety-free
When we are anxious, we underperform and fail to display the appropriate levels of attention and focus. The brain is too busy dealing with anxiety to be fully performing.
A 1993 study showed that CBD may help reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is also called the stress hormone because it is secreted when the body feels stressed. This is a natural body reaction: when in danger, our body alerts us to fight or run away. However, when cortisol levels remain elevated longer than necessary, the brain may get permanently stuck in a state of stress and anxiety.
This 2019 study suggests that CBD may help the mind handle anxiety better. This confirms the findings of a 2015 study that concluded: “current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders.”
It is still unclear whether CBD’s effectiveness is through its interaction with serotonin or through an indirect interaction with the CB1 receptor found in the brain.
To be alert, we need to feel rested
To be alert, we need to feel rested. A good night’s sleep helps the body recover from daily wear and tear. It is also the time when the brain clears itself and gets rid of toxins.
Research suggests that CBD may help with insomnia and in maintaining healthy sleep patterns. A 2017 study concluded that “cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia… CBD may hold promise for REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness.”
It is unclear if this is due to CBD’s potential anxiolytic effects: by helping fend off anxiety, perhaps CBD indirectly helps us sleep better. As the study concluded, “Research on cannabis and sleep is in its infancy and has yielded mixed results. Additional controlled and longitudinal research is critical to advance our understanding of research and clinical implications.”
To be attentive, we need to have a good memory
A good memory helps us retrieve the pieces of information that are required to fulfil a task. Poor memory has us scrambling to remember and piece things together. When alertness and mental speed are required, a good memory is crucial.
Our brain requires a lot of energy, which it gets through chemical reactions. This process produces free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that are electrically unbalanced: they are missing an electron and are constantly looking for an extra electron to regain their balance. In doing so, they may cause chemical reactions in the body that lead to oxidization. Oxidization has been linked to a number of diseases and conditions.
Antioxidants prevent oxidization by offering free radicals the extra electron they are longing for without losing their own balance. The result, as this 1997 study found, is that the brain works better and memorizes things easier when it is flooded with antioxidants. As its conclusion stated, “these results indicate the important role played by antioxidants in brain aging and may have implications for prevention of progressive cognitive impairments.”
Research suggests that CBD possesses direct antioxidant properties. As this 2020 study stated, “CBD, like other antioxidants, interrupts free radical chain reactions, capturing free radicals or transforming them into less active forms.” The same study discovered that CBD also has indirect antioxidant properties. These properties may help our brain retain its plasticity and memorizing capacities for longer.
Video gamers and CBD
A new broad area of CBD interest has come from video gamers.
The world of professional video gaming is worth upwards of $1 bn. There is increasing interest in this type of sport, which requires mental alertness, brain focus, and intellectual readiness rather than strength. As more people become engaged in e-sports, they realize the need for sustained concentration.
Aside from immense quantities of coffee and other caffeine-loaded drinks, gamers are looking into natural stimulants that may help them retain their focus over long stretches of time.
Illegal substances are banned from e-gaming events. The Electronic Sports League (ESL) has devised a list of illegal substances that cannot be used by gamers. This list follows closely the one from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Chemical stimulants such as cocaine, steroids, methamphetamine, and even Adderall are prohibited from their competitions.
CBD has not been banned from ESL, as long as it contains less than 0.3% of THC—the psychotropic cannabinoid that is responsible for a sense of “high” in marijuana. Hence, the increasing interest of video gamers in CBD.
CBD for mental focus
There is growing interest in CBD for mental focus and brain alertness.
Both students and people with demanding jobs that require attention and concentration may benefit from CBD. Less stress, better sleep patterns, and an overall balanced brain activity help us remain focused on our work and life.
As CBD is well-tolerated by the body and non-addictive, an increasing number of people are turning to this cannabinoid to improve their well-being.
It should be stressed that further research is required to better understand whether and how CBD impacts our brain activity. We still need to find the fundamentals of CBD’s interplay with the brain. From determining the right CBD dosage for you to exploring counter-indications and interactions with medications, there is much we don’t know about this cannabinoid.
Even so, preliminary findings suggest that CBD communicates with the brain and its neurotransmitters in ways that may be beneficial to those looking to improve their mental focus. This matters to more than students and e-sports competitors: if CBD can help with brain-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, then it could improve the lives of millions.