Dr. Jeff Smith, Biology

The broad objectives of this proposed research are to quantitatively identify the degree to which electrical activity in specific neuronal populations that support fear learning and memory in the mammalian brain is targeted in a sexually dimorphic way by the cannabinoids; Dexanabinol, a synthetic cannabinoid used in human clinical trials for tumors and traumatic brain injury, and Cannabidiol, a widely available cannabinoid that is used to treat inflammation and childhood epilepsy.

The goal of this project is to characterize discreet anatomical and physiological targets of these drugs that will provide insight into the mechanism by which they exert known effects on fear learning and memory, and to show how these effects are divergent with gender.

The specific aims are I, to determine whether the learning-dependent density of excitatory and inhibitory neural activity within the hippocampus and amygdala is sexually dimorphic, whether Dexanabinol or Cannabidiol affect the activity patterns during acquisition of cognitive vs. reflexive memory, and whether gender influences any observed drug effects, and II, to identify gender specific variability in the effects of cannabinoids on markers of intrinsic plasticity within individual neurons that are active in processing different fear memory types which are more or less reliant on cognitive processing.

This work is significant because the information provided will support future informed decision making for safe prescription, or counter indication, of these prominent cannabinoids to individual consumers, male and female.