Cannabinoid signaling and social interactions

Cannabinoid signaling and social interactions

Marijuana use can enhance interpersonal communication and improve social interactions, although the mechanism of such effects is unknown. To investigate the role of anandamide, a marijuana-like neurotransmitter, in social contact, scientists measured anandamide levels in mice that had been either isolated or in social contact.

The authors found that social contact increased production of anandamide in the nucleus accumbens brain structure, and activation of endocannabinoid receptors was necessary to produce rewarding effects of social interaction.

Further, the authors found that oxytocin, which has been associated with interpersonal bonding, can stimulate anandamide production in the nucleus accumbens, and that blockade of oxytocin receptors inhibited this effect. The finding suggests that activation of oxytocin receptors may enhance anandamide production and oxytocin activity can mediate cannabinoid signaling in the brain.

Additionally, interruption of anandamide degradation mechanisms restored social reward functions when oxytocin receptors were blocked.

The results suggest that anandamide signaling may underlie the rewards of social contact and deficiencies in this signaling process may contribute to disorders affecting social interaction, such as autism, according to the authors.