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Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2005;(168):643-56.

Effects on development.

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Complutense, 28040 Madrid, Spain.


This chapter will review the effects produced on neural development by maternal consumption of cannabinoids during gestation and lactation, with emphasis in the maturation of several neurotransmitter systems (dopamine, serotonin, opioids, cannabinoids, etc.) and possible modifications in their functional expression at the behavioral or neuroendocrine levels. In addition, we have analyzed the possible existence of a sexual dimorphism in these ontogenic effects of cannabinoids, as well as the possible molecular mechanism underlying such effects. In general, the results discussed support the view that exposure to cannabinoids during critical periods of development produces marked modifications in the functional expression of diverse neuronal systems in adulthood. Furthermore, the functions of endocannabinoids in the brain are large not only in adulthood, but also in the period of prenatal and postnatal development. Thus, endocannabinoids have been reported to be present in early ages and to play a role in the process of brain development: neural proliferation and migration, axonal elongation, synaptogenesis and/or myelogenesis.

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