Recent years have been transformational in regard to the perception of the health risks and benefits of cannabis with increased acceptance of use. This has unintended neurodevelopmental implications given the increased use of cannabis and the potent levels of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol today being consumed by pregnant women, young mothers and teens. In this Review, we provide an overview of the neurobiological effects of cannabinoid exposure during prenatal/perinatal and adolescent periods, in which the endogenous cannabinoid system plays a fundamental role in neurodevelopmental processes. We highlight impaired synaptic plasticity as characteristic of developmental exposure and the important contribution of epigenetic reprogramming that maintains the long-term impact into adulthood and across generations. Such epigenetic influence by its very nature being highly responsive to the environment also provides the potential to diminish neural perturbations associated with developmental cannabis exposure.
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The authors were supported by NIDA grants DA030359 and DA050403 (G.R.).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Nature Reviews Neuroscience thanks Susan Murphy, who co-reviewed with Rose Schrott; Mauro Maccarrone; and the other anonymous reviewer for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Bara, A., Ferland, JM.N., Rompala, G. et al. Cannabis and synaptic reprogramming of the developing brain. Nat Rev Neurosci 22, 423–438 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41583-021-00465-5