Converging epidemiological studies indicate that cannabis abuse during adolescence increases the risk of developing psychosis and prefrontal cortex (PFC)-dependent cognitive impairments later in life. However, the mechanisms underlying the adolescent susceptibility to chronic cannabis exposure are poorly understood. Given that the psychoactive constituent of cannabis binds to the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, the present study was designed to determine the impact of a CB1 receptor agonist (WIN) during specific windows of adolescence on the functional maturation of the rat PFC. By means of local field potential recordings and ventral hippocampal stimulation in vivo, we found that a history of WIN exposure during early (postnatal days – P35–40) or mid-(P40–45) adolescence, but not in late adolescence (P50–55) or adulthood (P75–80), is sufficient to yield a state of frequency-dependent prefrontal disinhibition in adulthood comparable to that seen in the juvenile PFC. Remarkably, this prefrontal disinhibition could be normalized following a single acute local infusion of the GABA-Aα1 positive allosteric modulator Indiplon, suggesting that adolescent exposure to WIN causes a functional downregulation of GABAergic transmission in the PFC. Accordingly, in vitro recordings from adult rats exposed to WIN during adolescence demonstrate that local prefrontal GABAergic transmission onto layer V pyramidal neurons is markedly reduced to the level seen in the P30–35 PFC. Together, these results indicate that early and mid-adolescence constitute a critical period during which repeated CB1 receptor stimulation is sufficient to elicit an enduring state of PFC network disinhibition resulting from a developmental impairment of local prefrontal GABAergic transmission.
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We thank Dr Anthony West for helpful comments, and Ruvini Jayasinghe and Chanalee Hocharoen for technical assistance. Supported by Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, the Brain Research Foundation and NIH Grant R01-MH086507 to KYT.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on the Molecular Psychiatry website
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Cass, D., Flores-Barrera, E., Thomases, D. et al. CB1 cannabinoid receptor stimulation during adolescence impairs the maturation of GABA function in the adult rat prefrontal cortex. Mol Psychiatry 19, 536–543 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2014.14
- CB1 receptor
- prefrontal cortex
- ventral hippocampus
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