Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cannabinoids Explored as Potential Anxiety Therapy

Cannabinoids, natural modulators of regular memory processes, deserve a closer look as potential adjuncts to exposure-based therapies for PTSD and other anxiety disorders, say University of Michigan researchers. Exposure-based therapies are currently the best-supported treatments for many anxiety disorders. Several neurotransmitter systems have been studied as routes to enhance the extinction learning process that lies at the heart of exposure therapy. Both D-cycloserine, which acts on the glutaminergic system, and yohimbine, an alpha2-receptor antagonist, have been investigated for such purposes, for example.

Now, Israel Liberzon, M.D, a professor of psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience at Michigan, and research fellow Christine Rabinak, Ph.D., have found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) given during extinction learning in healthy subjects lead to better recall the next day of extinction memory compared with those who received placebo. The effect occurred even though no drug remained in the body.

“We speculate that the THC is doing something in the brain, to change areas that are activating or interacting after learning—but exactly what is still unknown,” Rabinak said in an interview with Psychiatric News.

“Learning is governed and modulated by several systems,” added Liberzon. Each system might modulate specific components of cognition and might lead ultimately to targeted interventions that could be tailored to the individual patient, he said.

For more in Psychiatric News about Liberzon’s and Rabinak’s work, click here.

(Image: Lightpoet/


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