Rationale: Coping styles are fundamental characteristics of behavior that affect susceptibility to, and resilience during, mental and physical illness. Shifts from passive to active coping are considered therapeutic goals in many stress-related disorders, but the neural control of coping is poorly understood. Based on earlier findings, we hypothesized that coping styles are influenced by endocannabinoids. Objectives: Here, we tested whether FAAH inhibition by URB597 affects behaviors aimed at controlling a critical situation and the degree to which environmental stimuli influence behavior i.e., we studied the impact of URB597 on the two main attributes of coping styles. Methods: Rats were tested in the tail-pinch test of coping and in the elevated plus-maze test that was performed under highly divergent conditions. Results: Under the effects of URB597, rats focused their behavior more on the discomfort-inducing clamp in the tail-pinch test, i.e., they coped with the challenge more actively. In the elevated plus-maze, URB597-treated rats demonstrated an autonomous behavioral control by reducing both "wariness" induced by aversive conditions and "carelessness" resulting from favorable conditions. Conclusions: URB597 treatment-induced behavioral changes indicated a shift towards active coping with challenges. This behavioral change appears compatible with the previously suggested role of endocannabinoids in emotional homeostasis. Albeit further studies are required to characterize the role of endocannabinoids in coping, these findings suggest that the enhancement of endocannabinoid signaling may become a therapeutic option in emotional disorders characterized by passive coping (e.g., anxiety and depression) and in physical diseases where active coping is therapeutically desirable.
ASJC Scopus subject areas