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Learn Mem. 2018 Aug 16;25(9):435-445. doi: 10.1101/lm.046748.117. Print 2018 Sep.

Cannabinoid disruption of learning mechanisms involved in reward processing.

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Electrophysiology Research Section, National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA.


The increasing use of cannabis, its derivatives, and synthetic cannabinoids for medicinal and recreational purposes has led to burgeoning interest in understanding the addictive potential of this class of molecules. It is estimated that ∼10% of marijuana users will eventually show signs of dependence on the drug, and the diagnosis of cannabis use disorder (CUD) is increasing in the United States. The molecule that sustains the use of cannabis is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), and our knowledge of its effects, and those of other cannabinoids on brain function has expanded rapidly in the past two decades. Additionally, the identification of endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid) systems in brain and their roles in physiology and behavior, demonstrate extensive involvement of these lipid signaling molecules in regulating CNS function. Here, we examine roles for endogenous cannabinoids in shaping synaptic activity in cortical and subcortical brain circuits, and we discuss mechanisms in which exogenous cannabinoids, such as Δ9-THC, interact with endocannabinoid systems to disrupt neuronal network oscillations. We then explore how perturbation of the interaction of this activity within brain reward circuits may lead to impaired learning. Finally, we propose that disruption of cellular plasticity mechanisms by exogenous cannabinoids in cortical and subcortical circuits may explain the difficulty in establishing viable cannabinoid self-administration models in animals.

[Available on 2019-09-01]

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