Regulation of Brain Reward by the Endocannabinoid System: A Critical Review of Behavioral Studies in Animals

Author(s): S. Vlachou, G. Panagis

Journal Name: Current Pharmaceutical Design

Volume 20 , Issue 13 , 2014

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The endocannabinoid system has been implicated in the regulation of a variety of physiological processes, including a crucial involvement in brain reward systems and the regulation of motivational processes. Behavioral studies have shown that cannabinoid reward may involve the same brain circuits and similar brain mechanisms with other drugs of abuse, such as nicotine, cocaine, alcohol and heroin, as well as natural rewards, such as food, water and sucrose, although the conditions under which cannabinoids exert their rewarding effects may be more limited. The purpose of the present review is to briefly describe and evaluate the behavioral and pharmacological research concerning the major components of the endocannabinoid system and reward processes. Special emphasis is placed on data received from four procedures used to test the effects of the endocannabinoid system on brain reward in animals; namely, the intracranial self-stimulation paradigm, the self-administration procedure, the conditioned place preference procedure and the drug-discrimination procedure. The effects of cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptor agonists, antagonists and endocannabinoid modulators in these procedures are examined. Further, the involvement of CB1 and CB2 receptors, as well the fatty acid amid hydrolase (FAAH) enzyme in reward processes is investigated through presentation of respective genetic ablation studies in mice. We suggest that the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in modulating motivation and reward processes. Further research will provide us with a better understanding of these processes and, thus, could lead to the development of potential therapeutic compounds for the treatment of rewardrelated disorders.

Keywords: Cannabinoids, addiction, anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, intracranial self-stimulation, self-administration, conditioned place preference, drug discrimination.

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Article Details

Year: 2014
Published on: 14 June, 2013
Page: [2072 - 2088]
Pages: 17
DOI: 10.2174/13816128113199990433
Price: $65

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