CB1 receptors are located throughout the brain, central nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and related organs. These receptors also mediate the psychotropic effects of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta9 THC), the principal psychoactive component of cannabis.
In addition, they are one component of an interesting and widespread paracrine signaling system, the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is comprised of cannabinoid receptors, endogenous cannabinoids, and the metabolic pathways responsible for their synthesis and degradation.
The details of the endocannabinoid system have been most thoroughly studied in the brain. It has been shown to be intimately involved in several forms of neuronal plasticity.
That is, activation of CB1 receptors by endocannabinoids produces either short- or long-term changes in the efficacy of synaptic transmission. Synaptic transmission is the biological process by which a neuron communicates with a target cell across a synapse.
The behavioral consequences of these changes are many, but some of the most striking and relevant to the current symposium are those associated with endogenous reward and consumptive behavior.