Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) serve as retrograde messengers at synapses in various regions of the brain. They are released from postsynaptic neurons and cause transient and long-lasting reduction of neurotransmitter release through activation of presynaptic cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoid release is induced either by increased postsynaptic Ca(2+) levels or by activation of G(q/11)-coupled receptors. When these two stimuli coincide, endocannabinoid release is markedly enhanced, which is attributed to the Ca(2+) dependency of phospholipase Cbeta (PLCbeta). This Ca(2+)-assisted receptor-driven endocannabinoid release is suggested to participate in various forms of synaptic plasticity, including short-term associative plasticity in the cerebellum and spike-timing-dependent long-term depression in the somatosensory cortex. In these forms of plasticity, PLCbeta seems to function as a coincident detector of presynaptic and postsynaptic activities.