Anti-aversive effects of cannabidiol on innate fear-induced behaviors evoked by an ethological model of panic attacks based on a prey vs the wild snake Epicrates cenchria crassus confrontation paradigm

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Jan;37(2):412-21. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.188. Epub 2011 Sep 14.


Several pharmacological targets have been proposed as modulators of panic-like reactions. However, interest should be given to other potential therapeutic neurochemical agents. Recent attention has been given to the potential anxiolytic properties of cannabidiol, because of its complex actions on the endocannabinoid system together with its effects on other neurotransmitter systems. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of cannabidiol on innate fear-related behaviors evoked by a prey vs predator paradigm. Male Swiss mice were submitted to habituation in an arena containing a burrow and subsequently pre-treated with intraperitoneal administrations of vehicle or cannabidiol. A constrictor snake was placed inside the arena, and defensive and non-defensive behaviors were recorded. Cannabidiol caused a clear anti-aversive effect, decreasing explosive escape and defensive immobility behaviors outside and inside the burrow. These results show that cannabidiol modulates defensive behaviors evoked by the presence of threatening stimuli, even in a potentially safe environment following a fear response, suggesting a panicolytic effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Cannabidiol / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Fear / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Instinct*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Panic Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Snakes


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Cannabidiol