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Future Neurol. 2011 Jul 1;6(4):459-480.

Lasting impacts of prenatal cannabis exposure and the role of endogenous cannabinoids in the developing brain.

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The Cain Foundation Laboratories, Jan & Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital, 1250 Moursund St Suite 1225, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance among pregnant women. Human epidemiological and animal studies have found that prenatal cannabis exposure influences brain development and can have long-lasting impacts on cognitive functions. Exploration of the therapeutic potential of cannabis-based medicines and synthetic cannabinoid compounds has given us much insight into the physiological roles of endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) and their receptors. In this article, we examine human longitudinal cohort studies that document the long-term influence of prenatal exposure to cannabis, followed by an overview of the molecular composition of the endocannabinoid system and the temporal and spatial changes in their expression during brain development. How endocannabinoid signaling modulates fundamental developmental processes such as cell proliferation, neurogenesis, migration and axonal pathfinding are also summarized.


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