Cannabinoids and neuroprotection

Mol Neurobiol. Aug-Dec 2001;24(1-3):29-51. doi: 10.1385/MN:24:1-3:029.


Cannabinoid compounds are endowed with pharmacological properties that make them interesting candidates for therapeutic development. These properties have been known since antiquity. However, in the last decade extremely important advances in the understanding of the physiology, pharmacology, and molecular biology of the cannabinoid system have given this field of research fresh impetus and have renewed the interest in the possible clinical exploitation of these compounds. In the present review we summarize the effects elicited, at the cellular level, by cannabinoids acting through receptor-dependent and receptor-independent mechanisms. These data suggest different ways by which cannabinoids may act as neuroprotective agents (prevention of excitotoxicity by inhibition of glutamate release, antioxidant effects, anti-inflammatory actions, etc.). The experimental evidence supporting these hypotheses are presented and discussed with regard to both preclinical and clinical studies in disease states such as cerebral ischemia, brain trauma, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Neuroprotective Agents*
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / physiology


  • Cannabinoids
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug