Rethinking the link between cannabinoids and learning

Fluorescent image of a mouse brain with the cerebellum highlighted in the shape of a marijuana leaf. Credit: Rita Félix, PhD.

Cannabinoids have a strong influence on how our brains work and how we behave. Many people are only aware of the recreational aspect of cannabinoids. But in fact these molecules naturally exist in our brains where they participate in intrinsic processes.

Altered cannabinoid signaling, for instance due to chronic use of marijuana, results in a range of impairments. Similarly, mice lacking cannabinoid receptors exhibit reduced activity levels, as well as deficits in learning and memory.

How do cannabinoids exact their effect on learning? A team led by Megan Carey, a principal investigator at the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Portugal, and Catarina Albergaria, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab, decided to tap into this question by investigating the brain mechanisms involved in a classical learning task called eyeblink conditioning.

The immediate suspect


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