Modulation of Fear and Anxiety by the Endogenous Cannabinoid System

“The last decade has witnessed remarkable progress in the understanding of the mammalian cannabinoid system, from the cloning of the endogenous cannabinoid receptor to the discovery of new pharmacologic compounds acting on this receptor. Current and planned studies in humans include compounds with effects ranging from direct antagonists to inhibitors of reuptake and breakdown. This progress has been accompanied by a much greater understanding of the role of the cannabinoid system in modulating the neural circuitry that mediates anxiety and fear responses. This review focuses on the neural circuitry and pharmacology of the cannabinoid system as it relates to the acquisition, expression, and extinction of conditioned fear as a model of human anxiety.

 Preclinical studies suggest that these may provide important emerging targets for new treatments of anxiety disorders.


The last decade has witnessed an enormous amount of progress in the understanding of the molecular biology, physiology, pharmacology, and behavioral neuroscience underlying the endogenous cannabinoid system. These receptors and their ligands have ubiquitous roles ranging from appetite and pain response to modulation of fear and anxiety. A burgeoning understanding of their roles in regulating the extinction of fear responses may lead to a particularly important role in translation of the preclinical research to novel treatments of anxiety disorders.”

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