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Home » It’s All in the Rhythm: The Role of Cannabinoids in Neural Oscillations and Psychosis

It’s All in the Rhythm: The Role of Cannabinoids in Neural Oscillations and Psychosis

Patrick D. Skosnik, Jose A. Cortes-Briones, and Mihály Hajós


Evidence has accumulated over the past several decades suggesting that both exocannabinoids and endocannabinoids play a role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. The current article presents evidence suggesting that one of the mechanisms whereby cannabinoids induce psychosis is through the alteration in synchronized neural oscillations. Neural oscillations, particularly in the gamma (30–80 Hz) and theta (4–7 Hz) ranges, are disrupted in schizophrenia and are involved in various areas of perceptual and cognitive function. Regarding cannabinoids, preclinical evidence from slice and local field potential recordings has shown that central cannabinoid receptor (cannabinoid receptor type 1) agonists decrease the power of neural oscillations, particularly in the gamma and theta bands. Further, the administration of cannabinoids during critical stages of neural development has been shown to disrupt the brain’s ability to generate synchronized neural oscillations in adulthood. In humans, studies examining the effects of chronic cannabis use (utilizing electroencephalography) have shown abnormalities in neural oscillations in a pattern similar to those observed in schizophrenia. Finally, recent studies in humans have also shown disruptions in neural oscillations after the acute administration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive constituent in cannabis. Taken together, these data suggest that both acute and chronic cannabinoids can disrupt the ability of the brain to generate synchronized oscillations at functionally relevant frequencies. Hence, this may represent one of the primary mechanisms whereby cannabinoids induce disruptions in attention, working memory, sensory-motor integration, and many other psychosis-related behavioral effects.

Keywords: Cannabinoids, Cannabis, Gamma, Neural oscillations, Psychosis, Theta

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