Disrupting the endocannabinoid system in early adolescence negatively impacts sociability

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Animal models suggest that the endocannabinoid system (eCS) helps regulate various aspects of social behavior, including play behavior and social reward, during adolescence. Properly tuned endocannabinoid signaling may be a critical developmental component in the emergence of normal adult sociability. In the current experiment, we attempted to pharmacologically disrupt endocannabinoid tone during early adolescence, and then measure the behavioral effects at two subsequent time points. 36 male and 36 female Long Evans rats received daily injections of one of three treatments between post-natal day (PND) 25–39: 1) vehicle treatment, 2) 0.4 mg/kg CP55,940 (a potent CB1/CB2 receptor agonist), or 3) 0.5 mg/kg AM251 (a CB1 receptor antagonist/inverse agonist). Both soon after treatment (PND 40–44) and several weeks later (PND 66–70), subjects were tested in an elevated plus maze (EPM) for anxiety and in a three-chambered apparatus for sociability. For the latter test, the number of entries into each chamber and the amount of time spent investigating each target were measured. Analyses revealed significant main effects of both sex and age on sociability: males expressed greater sociability compared to females, and sociability was higher in adolescence than adulthood. Most importantly, drug treatment (both CP55,940 and AM251) attenuated sociability in adolescence without having a significant effect on anxiety in the EPM. However, this effect did not persist into adulthood. These results indicate that pharmacological disruption of endocannabinoid tone – through either chronic agonism or antagonism of cannabinoid receptors - during early adolescence has a detrimental effect on sociability. This effect may be caused by transient, compensatory alterations in the eCS.




Cossio, D., Stadler, H., Michas, Z., Johnston, C., & Lopez, H. H. (2020). Disrupting the endocannabinoid system in early adolescence negatively impacts sociability. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2019.172832

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