Endocannabinoid signalling in reward and addiction.
ABSTRACT: Brain endocannabinoid (eCB) signalling influences the motivation for natural rewards (such as palatable food, sexual activity and social interaction) and modulates the rewarding effects of addictive drugs. Pathological forms of natural and drug-induced reward are associated with dysregulated eCB signalling that may derive from pre-existing genetic factors or from prolonged drug exposure. Impaired eCB signalling contributes to dysregulated synaptic plasticity, increased stress responsivity, negative emotional states and cravings that propel addiction. Understanding the contributions of eCB disruptions to behavioural and physiological traits provides insight into the eCB influence on addiction vulnerability.
Project description:Endogenous cannabinoids (eCBs) are retrograde messengers that provide feedback inhibition of both excitatory and inhibitory transmission in brain through the activation of presynaptic CB? receptors. Substantial evidence indicates that eCBs mediate various forms of short- and long-term plasticity in brain regions involved in the etiology of addiction. The present review provides an overview of the mechanisms through which eCBs mediate various forms of synaptic plasticity and discusses evidence that eCB-mediated plasticity is disrupted following exposure to a variety of abused substances that differ substantially in pharmacodynamic mechanism including alcohol, psychostimulants and cannabinoids. The possible involvement of dysregulated eCB signaling in maladaptive behaviors that evolve over long-term drug exposure is also discussed, with a particular focus on altered behavioral responses to drug exposure, deficient extinction of drug-related memories, increased drug craving and relapse, heightened stress sensitivity and persistent affective disruption (anxiety and depression).
Project description:The endogenous cannabinoid system is an important regulatory system involved in physiological homeostasis. Endocannabinoid signaling is known to modulate neural development, immune function, metabolism, synaptic plasticity and emotional state. Accumulating evidence also implicates brain endocannabinoid signaling in the etiology of drug addiction which is characterized by compulsive drug seeking, loss of control in limiting drug intake, emergence of a negative emotional state in the absence of drug use and a persistent vulnerability toward relapse to drug use during protracted abstinence. In this review we discuss the effects of drug intake on brain endocannabinoid signaling, evidence implicating the endocannabinoid system in the motivation for drug consumption, and drug-induced alterations in endocannabinoid function that may contribute to various aspects of addiction including dysregulated synaptic plasticity, increased stress responsivity, negative affective states, drug craving and relapse to drug taking. Current knowledge of genetic variants in endocannabinoid signaling associated with addiction is also discussed.
Project description:Recent evidence has implicated the endocannabinoid (eCB) system in nicotine addiction. The eCB system also has an important role in reward mechanisms, and nicotine addiction has been associated with aberrant reward processing. Motivated by this evidence, we tested the hypothesis that eCB modulation of reward processing is altered in subjects with a nicotine addiction (NAD). For this purpose, we compared reward-related activity in NAD with healthy controls (HC) in a pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study using ?(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) administration to challenge the eCB system. Eleven HC and 10 NAD participated in a 3-T functional MRI (fMRI) study with a double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled design, using a Monetary Incentive Delay (MID) paradigm with three reward levels. Reward activity in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and caudate putamen during anticipation and feedback of reward was compared after THC and placebo. fMRI results indicated a significant reduction of reward anticipation activity in the NAcc in NAD after THC administration, which was not present in HC. This is indicated by a significant group by drug by reward interaction. Our data show that THC significantly reduces the NAcc response to monetary reward anticipation in NAD. These results suggest that nicotine addiction is associated with altered eCB modulation of reward processing in the NAcc. This study adds important human data to existing evidence implicating the eCB system in nicotine addiction.
Project description:During adolescence, both rodent and human studies have revealed dynamic changes in the developmental trajectories of corticolimbic structures, which are known to contribute to the regulation of fear and anxiety-related behaviors. The endocannabinoid (eCB) system critically regulates stress responsivity and anxiety throughout the life span. Emerging evidence suggests that during adolescence, changes in eCB signaling contribute to the maturation of local and corticolimbic circuit populations of neurons, such as mediating the balance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission within the prefrontal cortex. This function of the eCB system facilitates efficient communication within and between brain regions and serves a central role in establishing complex and adaptive cognitive and behavioral processing. Although these peri-adolescent changes in eCB signaling promote brain development and plasticity, they also render this period a particularly sensitive one for environmental perturbations to these normative fluctuations in eCB signaling, such as stress, potentially leading to altered developmental trajectories of neural circuits governing emotional behaviors. In this review, we focus on the role of eCB signaling on the regulation of stress and anxiety-related behaviors both during and after adolescence. Moreover, we discuss the functional implications of human genetic variation in the eCB system for the risk for anxiety and consequences of stress across development and into adulthood.
Project description:<h4>Rationale</h4>Disturbed reward processing in humans has been associated with a number of disorders, such as depression, addiction, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The endocannabinoid (eCB) system has been implicated in reward processing in animals, but in humans, the relation between eCB functioning and reward is less clear.<h4>Objectives</h4>The current study uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the role of the eCB system in reward processing in humans by examining the effect of the eCB agonist ?(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on reward-related brain activity.<h4>Methods</h4>Eleven healthy males participated in a randomized placebo-controlled pharmacological fMRI study with administration of THC to challenge the eCB system. We compared anticipatory and feedback-related brain activity after placebo and THC, using a monetary incentive delay task. In this task, subjects are notified before each trial whether a correct response is rewarded ("reward trial") or not ("neutral trial").<h4>Results</h4>Subjects showed faster reaction times during reward trials compared to neutral trials, and this effect was not altered by THC. THC induced a widespread attenuation of the brain response to feedback in reward trials but not in neutral trials. Anticipatory brain activity was not affected.<h4>Conclusions</h4>These results suggest a role for the eCB system in the appreciation of rewards. The involvement of the eCB system in feedback processing may be relevant for disorders in which appreciation of natural rewards may be affected such as addiction.
Project description:Ageing is characterized by the progressive impairment of physiological functions and increased risk of developing debilitating disorders, including chronic inflammation and neurodegenerative diseases. These disorders have common molecular mechanisms that can be targeted therapeutically. In the wake of the approval of the first cannabinoid-based drug for the symptomatic treatment of multiple sclerosis, we examine how endocannabinoid (eCB) signalling controls--and is affected by--normal ageing and neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative disorders. We propose a conceptual framework linking eCB signalling to the control of the cellular and molecular hallmarks of these processes, and categorize the key components of endocannabinoid signalling that may serve as targets for novel therapeutics.
Project description:The endocannabinoid (eCB) system has emerged as a central integrator linking the perception of external and internal stimuli to distinct neurophysiological and behavioural outcomes (such as fear reaction, anxiety and stress-coping), thus allowing an organism to adapt to its changing environment. eCB signalling seems to determine the value of fear-evoking stimuli and to tune appropriate behavioural responses, which are essential for the organism's long-term viability, homeostasis and stress resilience; and dysregulation of eCB signalling can lead to psychiatric disorders. An understanding of the underlying neural cell populations and cellular processes enables the development of therapeutic strategies to mitigate behavioural maladaptation.
Project description:Obesity is characterised by altered gut microbiota, low-grade inflammation and increased endocannabinoid (eCB) system tone; however, a clear connection between gut microbiota and eCB signalling has yet to be confirmed. Here, we report that gut microbiota modulate the intestinal eCB system tone, which in turn regulates gut permeability and plasma lipopolysaccharide (LPS) levels. The impact of the increased plasma LPS levels and eCB system tone found in obesity on adipose tissue metabolism (e.g. differentiation and lipogenesis) remains unknown. By interfering with the eCB system using CB(1) agonist and antagonist in lean and obese mouse models, we found that the eCB system controls gut permeability and adipogenesis. We also show that LPS acts as a master switch to control adipose tissue metabolism both in vivo and ex vivo by blocking cannabinoid-driven adipogenesis. These data indicate that gut microbiota determine adipose tissue physiology through LPS-eCB system regulatory loops and may have critical functions in adipose tissue plasticity during obesity.
Project description:Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is a key enzyme in regulating endocannabinoid (eCB) signaling. A common single nucleotide polymorphism (C385A) in the human FAAH gene has been associated with increased risk for addiction and obesity.Using imaging genetics in 82 healthy adult volunteers, we examined the effects of FAAH C385A on threat- and reward-related human brain function.Carriers of FAAH 385A, associated with reduced enzyme and possibly increased eCB signaling, had decreased threat-related amygdala reactivity but increased reward-related ventral striatal reactivity in comparison with C385 homozygotes. Similarly divergent effects of FAAH C385A genotype were manifest at the level of brain-behavior relationships. The 385A carriers showed decreased correlation between amygdala reactivity and trait anxiety but increased correlation between ventral striatal reactivity and delay discounting, an index of impulsivity.Our results parallel pharmacologic and genetic dissection of eCB signaling, are consistent with the psychotropic effects of Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, and highlight specific neural mechanisms through which variability in eCB signaling impacts complex behavioral processes related to risk for addiction and obesity.
Project description:The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is involved in adaptive reward and motivation processing and is composed of dopamine (DA) and GABA neurons. Defining the elements regulating activity and synaptic plasticity of these cells is critical to understanding mechanisms of reward and addiction. While endocannabinoids (eCBs) that potentially contribute to addiction are known to be involved in synaptic plasticity mechanisms in the VTA, where they are produced is poorly understood. In this study, DA and GABAergic cells were identified using electrophysiology, cellular markers, and a transgenic mouse model that specifically labels GABA cells. Using single-cell RT-qPCR and immunohistochemistry, we investigated mRNA and proteins involved in eCB signaling such as diacylglycerol lipase α, N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine-specific phospholipase D, and 12-lipoxygenase, as well as type I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). Our results demonstrate the first molecular evidence of colocalization of eCB biosynthetic enzyme and type I mGluR mRNA in VTA neurons. Further, these data reveal higher expression of mGluR1 in DA neurons, suggesting potential differences in eCB synthesis between DA and GABA neurons. These data collectively suggest that VTA GABAergic and DAergic cells have the potential to produce various eCBs implicated in altering neuronal activity or plasticity in adaptive motivational reward or addiction.