Context-dependent effects of CB1 cannabinoid gene disruption on anxiety-like and social behaviour in mice

J. Haller, B. Varga, C. Ledent, I. Barna, T. F. Freund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

218 Citations (Scopus)


Contrasting data were reported regarding the effects of cannabinoids on anxiety and social behaviour in both animals and humans. The cognitive effects of cannabinoids and their interactions with the HPA-axis raise the possibility that cannabinoid effects are context but not behaviour specific. To assess this hypothesis, we submitted CB1 receptor knock-out (CB1-KO) and wild-type (WT) mice to tests, which involved similar behaviours, but the behavioural context was different. The elevated plus-maze test was performed under less and more anxiogenic conditions, i.e. under low and high light, respectively. We also compared the social behaviour of the two genotypes in the resident/intruder and social interaction tests. Both tests represent a social challenge and induce similar behaviours, but involve different contexts. The behaviour of CB1-KO and WT mice was similar under low light, but CBI gene disruption increased anxiety-like behaviour under the high light condition. CB1 gene disruption promoted aggressive behaviour in the home-cage, whereas it inhibited social behaviour in the unfamiliar cage. Thus, the anxiogenic-like effect was restricted to the more stressful unfamiliar environment. These data suggest that the effects of CB1 gene disruption were context and not behaviour specific. Novelty stress resulted in higher ACTH levels in CBI-KOs than in WTs, which suggests that context dependency occurred in conjunction with an altered HPA axis function. The present data at least partly explain contrasting effects of cannabinoids in different contexts as well as in different species and strains that show differential stress responses and coping strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1906-1912
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004



  • Cannabinoids
  • Elevated plus-maze
  • Knock-out
  • Resident/intruder
  • Social interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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