The endocannabinoid system and nondrug rewarding behaviours. - GreenMedInfo Summary
The endocannabinoid system and nondrug rewarding behaviours.
Exp Neurol. 2010 Jul ;224(1):23-36. Epub 2010 Mar 29. PMID: 20353776
CNR Neuroscience Institute - Cagliari, Cittadella Universitaria di Monserrato, Italy.
Rewarding behaviours such as sexual activity, eating, nursing, parenting, social interactions, and play activity are conserved strongly in evolution, and they are essential for development and survival. All of these behaviours are enjoyable and represent pleasant experiences with a high reward value. Remarkably, rewarding behaviours activate the same brain circuits that mediate the positive reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse and of other forms of addiction, such as gambling and food addiction. Given the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in a variety of physiological functions of the nervous system, it is not surprising that it takes part in the complex machinery that regulates gratification and perception of pleasure. In this review, we focus first on the role of the endocannabinoid system in the modulation of neural activity and synaptic functions in brain regions that are involved in natural and nonnatural rewards (namely, the ventral tegmental area, striatum, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex). Then, we examine the role of the endocannabinoid system in modulating behaviours that directly or indirectly activate these brain reward pathways. More specifically, current knowledge of the effects of the pharmacological manipulation of the endocannabinoid system on natural (eating, sexual behaviour, parenting, and social play) and pathological (gambling) rewarding behaviours is summarised and discussed.