The role of endocannabinoid signaling in motor control

Physiology (Bethesda). 2010 Aug;25(4):230-8. doi: 10.1152/physiol.00007.2010.


Cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoid signaling are distributed throughout the rostrocaudal neuraxis. Retrograde signaling via endocannabinoid mediates synaptic plasticity in many regions in the central nervous system. Here, we review the role of endocannabinoid signaling in different parts of the vertebrate motor system from networks responsible for the execution of movement to planning centers in the basal ganglia and cortex. The ubiquity of endocannabinoid-mediated plasticity suggests that it plays an important role in producing motion from defined circuitries and also for reconfiguring networks to learn new motor skills. The long-term plasticity induced by endocannabinoids may provide a long-term buffer that stabilizes the organization of motor circuits and their activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / physiology*
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid