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Involvement of CB1 cannabinoid receptors in emotional behaviour

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Rationale: Endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids acting through the CB1 cannabinoid receptors are implicated in the control of a variety of behavioural and neuroendocrine functions, including emotional responses, and learning and memory processes. Recently, knockout mice deficient in the CB1 cannabinoid receptor have been generated, and these animals result in an excellent tool to evaluate the neurophysiology of the endogenous cannabinoid system. Objectives: To establish the role of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in several emotional-related behavioural responses, including aggressiveness, anxiety, depression and learning models, using CB1 knockout mice. Methods: We evaluated the spontaneous responses of CB1 knockout mice and wild-type controls under different behavioural paradigms, including the light/dark box, the chronic unpredictable mild stress, the resident–intruder test and the active avoidance paradigm. Results: Our findings showed that CB1 knockout mice presented an increase in the aggressive response measured in the resident–intruder test and an anxiogenic-like response in the light/dark box. Furthermore, a higher sensitivity to exhibit depressive-like responses in the chronic unpredictable mild stress procedure was observed in CB1 knockout mice, suggesting an increased susceptibility to develop an anhedonic state in these animals. Finally, CB1 knockout mice showed a significant increase in the conditioned responses produced in the active avoidance model, suggesting an improvement of learning and memory processes. Conclusions: Taken together these findings demonstrate that endogenous cannabinoids through the activation of CB1 receptors are implicated in the control of emotional behaviour and participate in the physiological processes of learning and memory.

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Martin, M., Ledent, C., Parmentier, M. et al. Involvement of CB1 cannabinoid receptors in emotional behaviour. Psychopharmacology 159, 379–387 (2002).

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