Wiring and firing neuronal networks: endocannabinoids take center stage

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008 Jun;18(3):338-45. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2008.08.007.


Endocannabinoids (eCBs) function as retrograde messengers at both excitatory and inhibitory synapses, and control various forms of synaptic plasticity in the adult brain. The molecular machinery required for specific eCB functions during synaptic plasticity is well established. However, eCB signaling plays surprisingly fundamental roles in controlling the acquisition of neuronal identity during CNS development. Recent work suggests that selective recruitment of regulatory signaling networks to CB1 cannabinoid receptors dictates neuronal state-change decisions. In addition, the spatial localization and temporal precision of eCB actions emerges as a novel organizer in developing neuronal networks. Current challenges include fitting novel molecular candidates into regulatory eCB signaling pathways, and defining the temporal dynamics of context-dependent signaling mechanisms underpinning particular neuronal specification events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1