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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005 Mar;30(3):516-24.

Enhancing cannabinoid neurotransmission augments the extinction of conditioned fear.

Author information

1
Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Yerkes Research Center, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA.

Abstract

The endogenous cannabinoid (eCB) system represents a major therapeutic target for the treatment of a variety of anxiety-related disorders. A recent study has demonstrated that pharmacologic or genetic disruption of CB1-receptor-mediated neurotransmission decreases the extinction of conditioned fear in mice. Here, we examined whether CB1 blockade would similarly disrupt extinction in rats, using fear-potentiated startle as a measure of conditioned fear. We also examined whether pharmacologic enhancement of CB1 activation would lead to enhancements in extinction. Our results indicate that systemic administration of the CB1 antagonist rimonabant (SR141716A) prior to extinction training led to significant, dose-dependent decreases in extinction. While the administration of the CB1 agonist WIN 55,212-2 did not appear to affect extinction, administration of AM404, an inhibitor of eCB breakdown and reuptake, led to dose-dependent enhancements in extinction. In addition to showing decreased fear 1 and 24 h after extinction training, AM404-treated animals showed decreased shock-induced reinstatement of fear. Control experiments demonstrated that the effects of AM404 could not be attributed to alterations in the expression of conditioned fear, locomotion, shock reactivity, or baseline startle, as these parameters seemed unchanged by AM404. Furthermore, coadministration of rimonabant with AM404 blocked this enhancement of extinction, suggesting that AM404 was acting to increase CB1 receptor activation during extinction training. These results demonstrate that the eCB system can be modulated to enhance emotional learning, and suggest that eCB modulators may be therapeutically useful as adjuncts for exposure-based psychotherapies such as those used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other anxiety disorders.

PMID:
15637635
DOI:
10.1038/sj.npp.1300655
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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