Cannabinoids and anxiety.
Behavioral Neurobiology of Anxiety and Its Treatment
Current topics in behavioral neurosciences, February 2011
Moreira FA, Wotjak CT, Fabrício A. Moreira, Carsten T. Wotjak, Moreira, Fabrício A., Wotjak, Carsten T.
The term cannabinoids encompasses compounds produced by the plant Cannabis sativa, such as delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, and synthetic counterparts. Their actions occur mainly through activation of cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors. Arachidonoyl ethanolamide (anandamide) and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG) serve as major endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) of CB1 receptors. Hence, the cannabinoid receptors, the endocannabinoids, and their metabolizing enzymes comprise the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids induce diverse responses on anxiety- and fear-related behaviors. Generally, low doses tend to induce anxiolytic-like effects, whereas high doses often cause the opposite. Inhibition of endocannabinoid degradation seems to circumvent these biphasic effects by enhancing CB1 receptor signaling in a temporarily and spatially restricted manner, thus reducing anxiety-like behaviors. Pharmacological blockade or genetic deletion of CB1 receptors, in turn, primarily exerts anxiogenic-like effects and impairments in extinction of aversive memories. Interestingly, pharmacological blockade of Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid Type-1 (TRPV1) channel, which can be activated by anandamide as well, has diametrically opposite consequences. This book chapter summarizes and conceptualizes our current knowledge about the role of (endo)cannabinoids in fear and anxiety and outlines implications for an exploitation of the endocannabinoid system as a target for new anxiolytic drugs.
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