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      Cannabidiol Produces Distinct U-Shaped Dose-Response Effects on Cocaine-Induced Conditioned Place Preference and Associated Recruitment of Prelimbic Neurons in Male Rats


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          Cannabidiol (CBD) has received attention for the treatment of substance use disorders. In preclinical models of relapse, CBD attenuates drug seeking across several drugs of abuse, including cocaine. However, in these models CBD has not been consistently effective. This inconsistency in CBD effects may be related to presently insufficient information on the full spectrum of CBD dose effects on drug-related behaviors.


          We address this issue by establishing a full dose-response profile of CBD’s actions using expression of cocaine-induced conditioned place preference as a model for drug-motivated behavior in male rats and by concurrently identifying dose-dependent effects of CBD on underlying neuronal activation and distinct neuronal phenotypes showing dose-dependent activation changes. Additionally, we established CBD levels in plasma and brain samples.


          CBD produced linear increases in CBD brain/plasma concentrations but suppressed conditioned place preference in a distinct U-shaped manner. In parallel with its behavioral effects, CBD produced U-shaped suppressant effects on neuronal activation in the prelimbic but not infralimbic cortex or nucleus accumbens core and shell. RNAscope in situ hybridization identified suppression of glutamatergic and GABAergic (gamma-aminobutyric acidergic) signaling in the prelimbic cortex as a possible cellular mechanism for the attenuation of cocaine-induced conditioned place preference by CBD.


          The findings extend previous evidence on the potential of CBD in preventing drug-motivated behavior. However, CBD’s dose-response profile may have important dosing implications for future clinical applications and may contribute to the understanding of discrepant CBD effects on drug seeking reported in the literature.

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          Most cited references38

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          The neural basis of addiction: a pathology of motivation and choice.

          A primary behavioral pathology in drug addiction is the overpowering motivational strength and decreased ability to control the desire to obtain drugs. In this review the authors explore how advances in neurobiology are approaching an understanding of the cellular and circuitry underpinnings of addiction, and they describe the novel pharmacotherapeutic targets emerging from this understanding. Findings from neuroimaging of addicts are integrated with cellular studies in animal models of drug seeking. While dopamine is critical for acute reward and initiation of addiction, end-stage addiction results primarily from cellular adaptations in anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal glutamatergic projections to the nucleus accumbens. Pathophysiological plasticity in excitatory transmission reduces the capacity of the prefrontal cortex to initiate behaviors in response to biological rewards and to provide executive control over drug seeking. Simultaneously, the prefrontal cortex is hyperresponsive to stimuli predicting drug availability, resulting in supraphysiological glutamatergic drive in the nucleus accumbens, where excitatory synapses have a reduced capacity to regulate neurotransmission. Cellular adaptations in prefrontal glutamatergic innervation of the accumbens promote the compulsive character of drug seeking in addicts by decreasing the value of natural rewards, diminishing cognitive control (choice), and enhancing glutamatergic drive in response to drug-associated stimuli.
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            The glutamate homeostasis hypothesis of addiction.

            Addiction is associated with neuroplasticity in the corticostriatal brain circuitry that is important for guiding adaptive behaviour. The hierarchy of corticostriatal information processing that normally permits the prefrontal cortex to regulate reinforcement-seeking behaviours is impaired by chronic drug use. A failure of the prefrontal cortex to control drug-seeking behaviours can be linked to an enduring imbalance between synaptic and non-synaptic glutamate, termed glutamate homeostasis. The imbalance in glutamate homeostasis engenders changes in neuroplasticity that impair communication between the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens. Some of these pathological changes are amenable to new glutamate- and neuroplasticity-based pharmacotherapies for treating addiction.
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              The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy.

              The recent identification of cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous lipid ligands has triggered an exponential growth of studies exploring the endocannabinoid system and its regulatory functions in health and disease. Such studies have been greatly facilitated by the introduction of selective cannabinoid receptor antagonists and inhibitors of endocannabinoid metabolism and transport, as well as mice deficient in cannabinoid receptors or the endocannabinoid-degrading enzyme fatty acid amidohydrolase. In the past decade, the endocannabinoid system has been implicated in a growing number of physiological functions, both in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs. More importantly, modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system turned out to hold therapeutic promise in a wide range of disparate diseases and pathological conditions, ranging from mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson's and Huntington's disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few. An impediment to the development of cannabinoid medications has been the socially unacceptable psychoactive properties of plant-derived or synthetic agonists, mediated by CB(1) receptors. However, this problem does not arise when the therapeutic aim is achieved by treatment with a CB(1) receptor antagonist, such as in obesity, and may also be absent when the action of endocannabinoids is enhanced indirectly through blocking their metabolism or transport. The use of selective CB(2) receptor agonists, which lack psychoactive properties, could represent another promising avenue for certain conditions. The abuse potential of plant-derived cannabinoids may also be limited through the use of preparations with controlled composition and the careful selection of dose and route of administration. The growing number of preclinical studies and clinical trials with compounds that modulate the endocannabinoid system will probably result in novel therapeutic approaches in a number of diseases for which current treatments do not fully address the patients' need. Here, we provide a comprehensive overview on the current state of knowledge of the endocannabinoid system as a target of pharmacotherapy.

                Author and article information

                Biol Psychiatry Glob Open Sci
                Biol Psychiatry Glob Open Sci
                Biological psychiatry global open science
                9 February 2022
                January 2022
                7 July 2021
                04 March 2022
                : 2
                : 1
                : 70-78
                Department of Neuroscience (HN, GEW, GLD, AC, TMK, JW, SZ, SC, AHT, NEE, NS, FW), The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California.
                Author notes

                HN and GEW contributed equally to this work as joint first authors.

                NS and FW contributed equally to this work as joint senior authors.

                TMK is currently affiliated with the College of Pharmacy, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas.

                Address correspondence to Friedbert Weiss, Ph.D., at bweiss@ 123456scripps.edu , or Nobuyoshi Suto, Ph.D., at nsuto@ 123456scripps.edu .

                This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).



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