Cannabinoids Regulate Sensory Processing in Early Olfactory and Visual Neural Circuits

Front Neural Circuits. 2021 Jul 7;15:662349. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2021.662349. eCollection 2021.


Our sensory systems such as the olfactory and visual systems are the target of neuromodulatory regulation. This neuromodulation starts at the level of sensory receptors and extends into cortical processing. A relatively new group of neuromodulators includes cannabinoids. These form a group of chemical substances that are found in the cannabis plant. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main cannabinoids. THC acts in the brain and nervous system like the chemical substances that our body produces, the endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids, also nicknamed the brain's own cannabis. While the function of the endocannabinoid system is understood fairly well in limbic structures such as the hippocampus and the amygdala, this signaling system is less well understood in the olfactory pathway and the visual system. Here, we describe and compare endocannabinoids as signaling molecules in the early processing centers of the olfactory and visual system, the olfactory bulb, and the retina, and the relevance of the endocannabinoid system for synaptic plasticity.

Keywords: dendrodendritic; depolarization-induced suppression of inhibition; marijuana; neuromodulation; odor; retina; smell; synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

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