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Reviews in the Neurosciences

Editor-in-Chief: Huston, Joseph P.

Editorial Board: Topic, Bianca / Adeli, Hojjat / Buzsaki, Gyorgy / Crawley, Jacqueline / Crow, Tim / Gold, Paul / Holsboer, Florian / Korth, Carsten / Li, Jay-Shake / Lubec, Gert / McEwen, Bruce / Pan, Weihong / Pletnikov, Mikhail / Robbins, Trevor / Schnitzler, Alfons / Stevens, Charles / Steward, Oswald / Trojanowski, John

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Volume 23, Issue 5-6


Cannabinoid modulation of mother-infant interaction: is it just about milk?

Antonia Manduca / Patrizia Campolongo / Viviana Trezza
Published Online: 2012-10-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2012-0074


Mother-infant interactions are essential for proper neurobehavioral development of the offspring, and disruptions in those relationships may result in neuroendocrine, neurochemical and behavioral alterations at adulthood. The neural circuitries involved in mother-infant interactions have not been completely elucidated yet. The brain endocannabinoid system plays an essential role in prenatal and postnatal neurobehavioral development. Here, we will summarize and discuss the available findings about the role of endocannabinoids in three key aspects of mother-infant interactions in rodents: suckling, maternal behavior and separation-induced ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs). The studies reviewed here show that endocannabinoids are not only involved in suckling initiation and, therefore, in the feeding and growth of the offspring, but also regulate the emotional reactivity of rodent pups, as measured by the rate of isolation-induced USVs. Conversely, less information is available about endocannabinoid modulation of maternal behavior, and therefore more research in this direction is warranted. Indeed, since Cannabis sativa preparations are widely used by young people, including pregnant and lactating women, it is important to understand whether developmental exposure to cannabinoids interferes with mother-infant bond formation, potentially leading to neurodevelopmental alterations and increased vulnerability to psychopathology later in life.

Keywords: endocannabinoids; maternal behavior; mother-infant interaction; suckling; ultrasonic vocalizations

About the article

Antonia Manduca

Antonia Manduca is a PhD student in Biology Applied to Human Health at the Department of Biology, Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy. Under the supervision of Dr. Viviana Trezza, she is involved in psychopharmacological research on the role of the endocannabinoid system in the modulation of emotions and cognition.

Patrizia Campolongo

Dr. Patrizia Campolongo is Assistant Professor at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. The thrust of her research is to investigate the role of the endocannabinoid system in the control of cognition and emotions and to unveil the neural underpinnings of emotional memory processing. She has won several prestigious awards, among them the European Brain and Behavioral Society (EBBS) young investigator award and the “Sapienza Ricerca 2010” young investigator prize, for the six most promising scientists performing fore-front research within the whole University. She is a member of the US Society for Neuroscience (Sfn), the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS), the EBBS, the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society (EBPS), the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) and the Italian Society of Pharmacology (SIF).

Viviana Trezza

Dr. Viviana Trezza is Assistant Professor at the Department of Biology of Roma Tre University. Her research focuses on the following topics: 1. the role of endocannabinoid neurotransmission in animal models of cognitive and emotional disorders; 2. neurobiology of social behavior in rats; 3. the developmental neurotoxicity of drugs of abuse and environmental chemicals. Dr. Trezza’s research activity is funded by the EU (Marie Curie Career Reintegration Grant, Seventh Framework Programme People), NWO (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) and MIUR (Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research). Viviana Trezza is a member of the US Society for Neuroscience (SfN), the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS), the European Brain and Behavioral Society (EBBS), the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society (EBPS), the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) and the Italian Society of Pharmacology (SIF).

Corresponding author: Viviana Trezza, Department of Biology, University “Roma Tre”, I-00146 Rome, Italy

Received: 2012-07-10

Accepted: 2012-09-16

Published Online: 2012-10-25

Published in Print: 2012-11-01

Citation Information: , Volume 23, Issue 5-6, Pages 707–722, ISSN (Online) 2191-0200, ISSN (Print) 0334-1763, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2012-0074.

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