Cannabidiol exerts antiepileptic effects by restoring hippocampal interneuron functions in a temporal lobe epilepsy model

Br J Pharmacol. 2018 Jun;175(11):2097-2115. doi: 10.1111/bph.14202. Epub 2018 Apr 17.


Background and purpose: A non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), shows promising results as an effective potential antiepileptic drug in some forms of refractory epilepsy. To elucidate the mechanisms by which CBD exerts its anti-seizure effects, we investigated its effects at synaptic connections and on the intrinsic membrane properties of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells and two major inhibitory interneurons: fast spiking, parvalbumin (PV)-expressing and adapting, cholecystokinin (CCK)-expressing interneurons. We also investigated whether in vivo treatment with CBD altered the fate of CCK and PV interneurons using immunohistochemistry.

Experimental approach: Electrophysiological intracellular whole-cell recordings combined with neuroanatomy were performed in acute brain slices of rat temporal lobe epilepsy in in vivo (induced by kainic acid) and in vitro (induced by Mg2+ -free solution) epileptic seizure models. For immunohistochemistry experiments, CBD was administered in vivo (100 mg·kg-1 ) at zero time and 90 min post status epilepticus, induced with kainic acid.

Key results: Bath application of CBD (10 μM) dampened excitability at unitary synapses between pyramidal cells but enhanced inhibitory synaptic potentials elicited by fast spiking and adapting interneurons at postsynaptic pyramidal cells. Furthermore, CBD restored impaired membrane excitability of PV, CCK and pyramidal cells in a cell type-specific manner. These neuroprotective effects of CBD were corroborated by immunohistochemistry experiments that revealed a significant reduction in atrophy and death of PV- and CCK-expressing interneurons after CBD treatment.

Conclusions and implications: Our data suggest that CBD restores excitability and morphological impairments in epileptic models to pre-epilepsy control levels through multiple mechanisms to reinstate normal network function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / administration & dosage
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology*
  • Cannabidiol / administration & dosage
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / chemically induced
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / drug therapy*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Interneurons / drug effects*
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Kainic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Cannabidiol
  • Kainic Acid