Effects of Acute and Repeated Cannabinoid Injections on Immediate and Delayed Object Memory and Unconditioned Anxiety - A Developmental Trajectory

Chelsea Kasten, Purdue University


Cannabinoid receptors (CBRs) are inhibitory G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) that bind endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids. In an unaltered state, endogenous cannabinoids regulate system function and synchrony. Administration of cannabinoids such as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which are found in the cannabis plant, can lead to disruptions in well-maintained inhibitory signaling. Although marijuana usage rates have been relatively stable since 2002, the number of young adolescents and adults that report perceiving marijuana as a “no risk” drug has doubled to more than 17% in each age group (Azofeifa et al., 2016). However, no drug is fully without risks. Preclinical studies have indicated that a history of THC during adolescence, but not adulthood, results in object memory impairments following a period of no-drug administration. In tests of unconditioned anxiety, acute THC evokes anxiety-like activity at higher doses. Conversely, CBD blocks object memory impairment in models that produce inflammation and also produces anxiolytic activity. Although THC and CBD are often used together for recreational and medical purposes, no study has observed the acute and long-lasting effects of THC+CBD in a battery of tests. The current work sought to fulfill three specific aims of research to identify both age and sex differences in response to cannabinoids. In Aim 1, a dose-response to acute THC or CBD was assessed in male and female adolescent and adult mice on the elevated plus maze (EPM) and open field (OF) activity. In Aim 2, acute vehicle, 10 mg/kg THC, 20 mg/kg CBD, and THC+CBD were assessed for their effects on memory consolidation, EPM, and OF activity in male and female mice during adolescence or adulthood. Mice from Aim 2 received a total of 8 injections over a 3 week period, then were given 3 weeks of rest. In Aim 3, all mice were tested again for object memory, EPM, and OF activity under no-drug conditions to assess the effects of an adolescent or adult history of cannabinoids in male and female mice. Results of Aim 1 indicated that adult mice, regardless of sex, were more sensitive to the acute effects of THC on unconditioned anxiety and locomotor activity. A rapid tolerance to THC may develop, as mice tested on the EPM in Aim 2 following their second injection of THC did not demonstrate anxiety-like activity that was present in Aim 1. However, anxiety-like activity persisted in the open field, and acute administration of THC+CBD resulted in synergistic effects on anxiety in adult females over THC alone. Interestingly, acute THC in adolescent males rescued a deficit in object memory in the vehicle group, whereas only adult males receiving vehicle showed significant object discrimination. Females were relatively resistant to effects of acute cannabinoids on object memory, with adolescents being completely insensitive. Results of Aim 3 indicated minimal effects of a history of cannabinoids on behavior. In contrast to previous experiments, an adolescent history of THC did not impair object memory. Interestingly, females administered THC+CBD during adulthood demonstrated impaired object memory following a no-drug period. Although CBD is often considered to lack a psychoactive profile, it is hypothesized that this impairment may be due to actions of CBD on 5HT1a receptors and require a fully-developed stress and gonadal system. The current results indicate that acute cannabinoid administration results in anxiety-like behavior when administered during adulthood, and that an adult history of THC+CBD in females results in impaired cognitive behavior. As the effects of cannabinoids were primarily present in adults, this may suggest that the fully-developed brain is more susceptible to interruption by acute and repeated exogenous cannabinoid administration and that adolescents may have a higher threshold for impairment of behavior.




Boehm II, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Neurosciences|Psychobiology|Experimental psychology

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