Research Topic

The endocannabinoid system: a key modulator of emotions and cognition

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The isolation and identification, in 1964, of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, opened the door to a whole new field of medical research. The exploration of the therapeutic potential of THC and other natural and synthetic cannabinoid compounds was paralleled by ...

The isolation and identification, in 1964, of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, opened the door to a whole new field of medical research. The exploration of the therapeutic potential of THC and other natural and synthetic cannabinoid compounds was paralleled by the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, consisting of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), their endogenous lipid ligands (endocannabinoids) and the enzymatic machinery for their synthesis and degradation. Cannabinoid receptors are highly expressed in the central nervous system, where endocannabinoids act as retrograde signalling messengers to exert a modulatory control of postsynaptic neurotransmission. Endocannabinoid regulation of ion channel activity and neurotransmitter release in brain areas involved in the modulation of emotions and cognition has important functional consequences and provides unique therapeutic possibilities: thus, there is ample evidence that modulation of cannabinoid CB1 receptor signalling may affect emotional learning, executive functions, fear and stress responses, basal emotional states, gratification and perception of pleasure for both natural and drug rewards. This Research Topic will bring together leading experts in the field to provide a deep overview of the physiological and pathophysiological role of the endocannabinoid system in the modulation of emotions and cognition, and will suggest the pathway of future research in this field.


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