Motor disturbances induced by an acute dose of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol: possible involvement of nigrostriatal dopaminergic alterations

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1993 Jun;45(2):291-8. doi: 10.1016/0091-3057(93)90241-k.


Exposure to cannabinoids has been reported to affect several neurotransmitter systems and their related behaviors. The present study has been designed to further explore the effects of cannabinoids on motor behavior and test the involvement of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurotransmission and other neurotransmitters as possible neurochemical targets for these cannabinoid effects. Male rats treated with an oral dose of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabinoid derivatives, or vehicle were used 1 h after treatment for analyses of spontaneous motor and stereotypic activities together with neurochemical analyses of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic activity. Treatments and analyses were performed in the dark phase of photoperiod because it corresponds to the maximum behavioral expression in the rat. Neurochemical analyses were measurements of presynaptic activity--dopamine (DA) and L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) contents, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) activity, and in vitro DA release--and postsynaptic sensitivity--number and affinity of D1 and D2 receptors--in the striatum. In addition, measurements of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid (5-HIAA) contents were also performed to evaluate serotoninergic activity in the striatum. An oral dose of THC produced a loss of spontaneous motor activity, measured in both actimeter and open-field test, and a decrease in the frequency of several stereotypic behaviors, such as rearing and self-grooming. This decrease was correlated to a low number of D1-dopaminergic receptors in the striatum, although neither DA and DOPAC contents nor TH activity and D2 receptors were altered.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dronabinol / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism


  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Serotonin
  • Dronabinol
  • Dopamine