Cannabinoid transmission and reward-related events

Neurobiol Dis. 1998 Dec;5(6 Pt B):502-33. doi: 10.1006/nbdi.1998.0219.


The reward/reinforcement circuitry of the mammalian brain consists of synaptically interconnected neurons associated with the medial forebrain bundle, linking the ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens, and ventral pallidum. Electrical stimulation of this circuit supports intense self-stimulation in animals and, in humans, produces intense pleasure or euphoria. This circuit is strongly implicated in the neural substrates of drug addiction and in such addiction-related phenomena as withdrawal dysphoria and craving. This circuit is also implicated in the pleasures produced by natural rewards (e.g., food, sex). Cannabinoids are euphorigenic in humans and have addictive liability in vulnerable persons, but were long considered "anomalous" drugs of abuse, lacking pharmacological interaction with these brain reward substrates. It is now clear, however, that cannabinoids activate these brain substrates and influence reward-related behaviors. From these actions, presumably, derive both the abuse potential of cannabinoids and the possible clinical efficacy in dysphoric states.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / drug effects
  • Receptors, Drug / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Cannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug