Effects of endocannabinoid system modulation on cognitive and emotional behavior

Claudio Zanettini, Leigh V. Panlilio, Mano Alicki, Steven R. Goldberg, József Haller, Sevil Yasar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Cannabis has long been known to produce cognitive and emotional effects. Research has shown that cannabinoid drugs produce these effects by driving the brain's endogenous cannabinoid system and that this system plays a modulatory role in many cognitive and emotional processes. This review focuses on the effects of endocannabinoid system modulation in animal models of cognition (learning and memory) and emotion (anxiety and depression). We review studies in which natural or synthetic cannabinoid agonists were administered to directly stimulate cannabinoid receptors or, conversely, where cannabinoid antagonists were administered to inhibit the activity of cannabinoid receptors. In addition, studies are reviewed that involved genetic disruption of cannabinoid receptors or genetic or pharmacological manipulation of the endocannabinoid-degrading enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Endocannabinoids affect the function of many neurotransmitter systems, some of which play opposing roles. The diversity of cannabinoid roles and the complexity of task-dependent activation of neuronal circuits may lead to the effects of endocannabi-noid system modulation being strongly dependent on environmental conditions. Recent findings are reviewed that raise the possibility that endocannabinoid signaling may change the impact of environmental influences on emotional and cognitive behavior rather than selectively affecting any specific behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue numberSEPTEMBER
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Animal models
  • Anxiety
  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Learning
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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