Does marijuana heighten the senses? It certainly makes food taste incredible and music sound divine. Interestingly, compounds from cannabis interact with receptors found close to or within all of our sensory organs. Below, we'll dive into the science that investigates how THC and other cannabinoids influence taste, sight, smell, touch, and hearing.
If you’ve ever used cannabis, you’ll know just how profoundly it can influence the way we perceive the world around us. It only takes a few tokes for most people to begin detecting these changes. That song you’ve listened to hundreds of times suddenly has new depths, and a harmony you never paid much attention to before emerges to the fore. Cannabis also adds a sense of profundity to landscapes, sunsets, and forest settings, giving everything a shimmering, almost high-definition aesthetic (for some people, at least). Of course, we can’t speak of cannabis and the senses without touching upon taste. Not only does weed catalyse the munchies and frequent raids of the fridge, but it sends the taste buds into overdrive and makes the most mundane of snacks hit a whole lot differently.
So, how exactly does cannabis affect the human senses? Why does the herb influence the way we perceive sights, sounds, and tastes? Continue reading to learn the basics of the human senses, and the potential influence of the cannabis plant on each of them.
Importance of the Senses
Our senses allow us to experience the world around us; sense organs transmit signals from external sources and send them off through the nervous system into the brain. Here, our biological computer uses these signals to build a picture of our surroundings. Our senses help us to perform everyday tasks, from using a keyboard or stove top to driving and conversing with others. Fundamentally, our senses enable us to survive. Without them, we wouldn’t do a great job of detecting danger, procuring food, and reproducing.
Humans possess five primary senses in the form of taste, touch, hearing, sight, and smell. The sensory organs that correspond to each of these senses—e.g. our eyes enable us to see and our ears to hear—serve as vantage points into the outside world. Our brain sits bathed in cerebrospinal fluid safely in the cranium, and our sensory organs relay signals to our central nervous system and allow us to react and behave accordingly.
Each of our sensory organs possesses specialised cells that help to turn environmental signals into electrical information transmitted by the nervous system. For instance, as light enters the eyes and hits the retina, photoreceptors convert the light into electrical signals. When it comes to hearing, sound vibrates the cochlea and causes 25,000 nerve endings to transform the vibrations into electrical signals. Our skin also houses different cell types that detect different stimuli; mechanoreceptors respond to mechanical stimuli, thermoreceptors respond to temperature, and chemoreceptors to chemicals.
Our senses work independently or in concert to inform us of threats and sources of reward. Certain inputs, such as loud, sudden noises or foul tastes, trigger automatic responses that protect us from potential danger. However, inputs such as the warm touch of another, or tastes of sweetness, elicit feelings of pleasure.