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Acute and chronic cannabinoid treatment differentially affects recognition memory and social behavior in pubertal and adult rats

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Although cannabis belongs to the most widely used drugs among adolescents, little is known about its acute and lasting neurobehavioral effects during critical developmental periods. In the present study we investigated acute and long-term behavioral effects of the cannabinoid agonist WIN 55,212-2 (WIN) in pubertal and adult rats. Chronic WIN (1.2 mg/kg)/vehicle treatment was extended over 25 days throughout puberty, from postnatal day (pd) 40 to pd 65, or for a similar time period in adult rats (> pd 80). All animals were tested at three time points for object/social recognition memory, social interaction and spontaneous social behavior. First, acute cannabinoid effects were investigated directly after the first injection. Additionally, behavioral performance was retested 24 hours and 15 days after cessation of WIN treatment. Chronic pubertal WIN treatment induced persistent object/social recognition deficits, indicating a general impairment in short-term information processing. Lasting disturbances in social behavior, social play and self-grooming were also found. Furthermore, behavioral deficits seen after acute WIN administration were more pronounced in pubertal than in adult rats. These results confirm our recent findings that chronic pubertal cannabinoid treatment leads to lasting behavioral alterations in adulthood, and they show that acute cannabinoid administration induces more severe behavioral deficits in pubertal rats than in mature animals. We therefore conclude that an immature brain is more susceptible to the acute and chronic effects of exogenous cannabinoids than an adult organism, which might be explained by an overactive endocannabinoid system and concomittant maturational disturbances in further neurotransmitter systems during pubertal development.
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Keywords: Cannabinoid; WIN 55,212-2; puberty; recognition memory; social behavior; social interaction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Pharmacology and 2: Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Cologne, Germany

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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