The role of the endocannabinoid system as a therapeutic target for autism spectrum disorder: Lessons from behavioral studies on mouse models

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2022 Jan:132:664-678. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.11.031. Epub 2021 Nov 20.


Recent years have seen an impressive amount of research devoted to understanding the etiopathology of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and developing therapies for this syndrome. Because of the lack of biomarkers of ASD, this work has been largely based on the behavioral characterization of rodent models, based on a multitude of genetic and environmental manipulations. Here we highlight how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has recently emerged within this context of mouse behavioral studies as an etiopathological factor in ASD and a valid potential therapeutic target. We summarize the most recent results showing alterations of the ECS in rodent models of ASD, and demonstrating ASD-like behaviors in mice with altered ECS, induced either by genetic or pharmacological manipulations. We also give a critical overview of the most relevant advances in designing treatments and novel mouse models for ASD targeting the ECS, highlighting the relevance of thorough and innovative behavioral approaches to investigate the mechanisms acting underneath the complex features of ASD.

Keywords: Autism; CB1r; Cannabinoids; Developmental disorders; Mouse models; Social behaviors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / genetics
  • Biomarkers
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Mice


  • Biomarkers
  • Endocannabinoids