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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Oct;28(10):1760-9.

Chronic pubertal, but not adult chronic cannabinoid treatment impairs sensorimotor gating, recognition memory, and the performance in a progressive ratio task in adult rats.

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  • 1Brain Research Institute, Department of Neuropharmacology, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany.


There is evidence from studies in humans and animals that a vulnerable period for chronic cannabinoid administration exists during certain phases of development. The present study tested the hypothesis that long-lasting interference of cannabinoids with the developing endogenous cannabinoid system during puberty causes persistent behavioral alterations in adult rats. Chronic treatment with the synthetic cannabinoid agonist WIN 55,212-2 (WIN) (1.2 mg/kg) or vehicle was extended over 25 days either throughout the rats' puberty or for a similar time period in adult rats. The rats received 20 injections intraperitoneally (i.p.), which were not delivered regularly. Adult rats were tested for object recognition memory, performance in a progressive ratio (PR) operant behavior task, locomotor activity, and prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response (ASR). PPI was significantly disrupted only by chronic peripubertal cannabinoid treatment. This long-lasting PPI deficit was reversed by the acute administration of the dopamine antagonist haloperidol. Furthermore, we found deficits in recognition memory of pubertal-treated rats and these animals showed lower break points in a PR schedule, whereas food preference and locomotion were not affected. Adult chronic cannabinoid treatment had no effect on the behaviors tested. Therefore, we conclude that puberty in rats is a vulnerable period with respect to the adverse effects of cannabinoid treatment. Since PPI deficits, object recognition memory impairments, and anhedonia/avolition are among the endophenotypes of schizophrenia, we propose chronic cannabinoid administration during pubertal development as an animal model for some aspects of the etiology of schizophrenia.

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