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Open Access Review

Translational evidence for the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in stress-related psychiatric illnesses

Matthew N Hill1 and Sachin Patel2

Author Affiliations

1 Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Departments of Cell Biology & Anatomy and Psychiatry, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary AB T2N4N1, Canada

2 Departments of Psychiatry, and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, 724B Robinson Research Building, Nashville, TN, USA

Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders 2013, 3:19  doi:10.1186/2045-5380-3-19

Published: 22 October 2013

Abstract

Accumulating evidence over the past decade has highlighted an important role of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system in the regulation of stress and emotional behavior across divergent species, from rodents to humans. The general findings from this work indicate that the eCB system plays an important role in gating and buffering the stress response, dampening anxiety and regulating mood. Work in rodents has allowed researchers to determine the neural mechanisms mediating this relationship while work in human populations has demonstrated the possible importance of this system in stress-related psychiatric diseases, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety and major depression. These stress-protective effects of eCB signaling appear to be primarily mediated by their actions within corticolimbic structures, particularly the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. The aim of this review is to provide an up-to-date discussion of the current level of knowledge in this field, as well as address the current gaps in knowledge and specific areas of research that require attention.

Keywords:
Endocannabinoid; Anandamide; 2-AG; Stress; Anxiety; Depression; PTSD