Cannabinoids modulate hippocampal memory and plasticity

Hila Abush, Irit Akirav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerable evidence demonstrates that cannabinoid agonists impair whereas cannabinoid antagonists improve memory and plasticity. However, recent studies suggest that the effects of cannabinoids on learning do not necessarily follow these simple patterns, particularly when emotional memory processes are involved. We investigated the involvement of the cannabinoid system in hippocampal learning and plasticity using the fear-related inhibitory avoidance (IA) and the nonfear-related spatial learning paradigms, and cellular models of learning and memory, i.e., long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). We found that microinjection into the CA1 of the CB1/CB2 receptor agonist WIN55,212-2 (5 μg/side) and an inhibitor of endocannabinoid reuptake and breakdown AM404 (200 ng/side) facilitated the extinction of IA, while the CB1 receptor antagonist AM251 (6 ng/side) impaired it. WIN55,212-2 and AM251 did not affect IA conditioning, while AM404 enhanced it, probably due to a drug-induced increase in pain sensitivity. However, in the water maze, systemic or local CA1 injections of AM251, WIN55,212-2, and AM404 all impaired spatial learning. We also found that i.p. administration of WIN55,212-2 (0.5 mg/kg), AM404 (10 mg/kg), and AM251 (2 mg/kg) impaired LTP in the Schaffer collateral-CA1 projection, whereas AM404 facilitated LTD. Our findings suggest diverse effects of the cannabinoid system on CA1 memory and plasticity that cannot be categorized simply into an impairing or an enhancing effect of cannabinoid activation and deactivation, respectively. Moreover, they provide preclinical support for the suggestion that targeting the endocannabinoid system may aid in the treatment of disorders associated with impaired extinction-like processes, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1126-1138
Number of pages13
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Avoidance
  • CA1
  • CB1 receptors
  • Extinction
  • LTD
  • LTP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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