Endocannabinoid-mediated synaptic plasticity in the CNS

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2006;29:37-76. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.29.051605.112834.


Changes in synaptic efficacy are thought to be crucial to experience-dependent modifications of neural function. The diversity of mechanisms underlying these changes is far greater than previously expected. In the last five years, a new class of use-dependent synaptic plasticity that requires retrograde signaling by endocannabinoids (eCB) and presynaptic CB1 receptor activation has been identified in several brain structures. eCB-mediated plasticity encompasses many forms of transient and long-lasting synaptic depression and is found at both excitatory and inhibitory synapses. In addition, eCBs can modify the inducibility of non-eCB-mediated forms of plasticity. Thus, the eCB system is emerging as a major player in synaptic plasticity. Given the wide distribution of CB1 receptors in the CNS, the list of brain structures and synapses expressing eCB-mediated plasticity is likely to expand.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism*
  • Central Nervous System / cytology*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid