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Cannabinoids and memory: animal studies.

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Istituto di Neuroscienze del CNR, Sezione di Psicobiologia e Psicofarmacologia, Viale Marx 15, 00137 Roma, Italy.


This review will consider studies concerning the effects of cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists on memory in laboratory animals. Two subtypes of cannabinoid receptors have been identified to date: the central CB1 subtype and the peripheral CB2 subtype. The receptor which specifically binds Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta9-THC) and related compounds in rat and human brain has been discovered and cloned by a number of researchers. This cannabinoid receptor is localized with high concentrations in different brain areas, including hippocampus and amygdala, which play an important role in the modulation of memory. In recent years evidence has been obtained that cannabinoids influence memory processes. It has been shown, for example, that Delta9-THC impairs memory in rats, mice and monkeys tested in a variety of experimental conditions (radial maze, instrumental discrimination tasks, Morris water maze, etc.). In some of these researches the effect of Delta9-THC was antagonized by the CB1 receptor antagonist SR 141716A, showing the involvement of this subtype of cannabinoid receptor in its effect. Anandamide, arachidonylethanolamide, was recently discovered as the first endogenous ligand for the cannabinoid receptor. It has been reported to stimulate CB1 receptors and to mimic the pharmacological effects of cannabinoids. Experiments carried out by our group have shown that anandamide impairs memory consolidation in random bred mice (CD1), exerts genotype-dependent influences on memory in inbred strain of mice (C57 BL/6 and DBA/2), and that opioid and dopaminergic systems might be involved in its effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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