Enhancement of endocannabinoid signalling during adolescence: Modulation of impulsivity and long-term consequences on metabolic brain parameters in early maternally deprived rats

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Pharmacological modulation of the endocannabinoid system is a novel but poorly explored field for potential therapy. Early maternal deprivation represents an animal model for specific aspects of neuropsychiatric disorders. This study explored whether a pharmacological manipulation of the endocannabinoid system at adolescence may restore altered phenotypes resulting from early maternal deprivation. Wistar male rats, maternally deprived for 24 h on postnatal day (PND) 9, were administered the fatty-acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitor URB597 (0, 0.1 or 0.5 mg/kg/day) for six days during adolescence (PND 31–43), while tested in the intolerance-to-delay task. Deprived (DEP) adolescent rats showed a trend for higher impulsivity levels and an increased locomotor response to novelty when compared to non-deprived (NDEP) controls. The low dose of URB597 effectively decreased impulsive behaviour specifically in DEP subjects. Moreover, long-term metabolic brain changes, induced by drug treatment during adolescence, were detected in DEP animals using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS). Significant changes were only found within the hippocampus: N-acetyl-aspartate and total creatine were up-regulated by the low dose; glutamate and glutamate plus glutamine were conversely down-regulated by the higher dose. In summary, administration of URB597 during adolescence increased self-control behaviour and produced enduring brain biochemical modifications, in a model for neuropsychiatric disorders.

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