Cannabinoids reverse the effects of Early stress on neurocognitive performance in adulthood

Shirley Alteba, Nachshon Korem, Irit Akirav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Early life stress (ES) significantly increases predisposition to psychopathologies. Cannabinoids may cause cognitive deficits and exacerbate the effects of ES. Nevertheless, the endocannabinoid system has been suggested as a therapeutic target for the treatment of stress- and anxiety-related disorders. Here we examined whether cannabinoids administered during "late adolescence" (extensive cannabis use in humans at the ages 18-25) could reverse the long-term adverse effects of ES on neurocognitive function in adulthood. Male and female rats were exposed to ES during post-natal days (P) 7-14, injected with the cannabinoid CB1/2 receptor agonist WIN55,212-2 (WIN; 1.2 mg/kg, i.p.) for 2 wk during late adolescence (P45-60) and tested in adulthood (P90) for working memory, anxiety, and alterations in CB1 receptors (CB1r), and glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) in the stress circuit [hippocampus, prefrontal cortex (PFC), and basolateral amygdala (BLA)]. ES males and females exhibited impaired performance in short-term memory in adulthood in the spatial location and social recognition tasks; males were also impaired in the novel object recognition task. WIN administered during late adolescence prevented these stress-induced impairments and reduced anxiety levels. WIN normalized the ES-induced up-regulation in PFC-GRs and CA1-CB1r in females. In males, WIN normalized the ES-induced up-regulation in PFC-GR and down-regulation in BLA-CB1r. There is a crucial role of the endocannabinoid system in the effects of early life stress on behavior at adulthood. Differences in recognition memory and in the expression of GRs and CB1r in the fear circuit suggest sex differences in the mechanism underlying coping with stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-358
Number of pages10
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by The Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 572/12 to I.A.) (URL:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Alteba et al.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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