Publication Details

Osborne, A. L., Solowij, N., Babic, I., Lum, J. S., Huang, X., Newell, K. A. & Weston-Green, K. (2019). Cannabidiol improves behavioural and neurochemical deficits in adult female offspring of the maternal immune activation (poly I:C) model of neurodevelopmental disorders. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 81 574-587.


Cognitive impairment is a major source of disability in schizophrenia and current antipsychotic drugs (APDs) have minimal efficacy for this symptom domain. Cannabidiol (CBD), the major non-intoxicating component of Cannabis sativa L., exhibits antipsychotic and neuroprotective properties. We recently reported the effects of CBD on cognition in male offspring of a maternal immune activation (polyinosinic-polycytidilic acid (poly I:C)) model relevant to the aetiology of schizophrenia; however, the effects of CBD treatment in females are unknown. Sex differences are observed in the onset of schizophrenia symptoms and response to APD treatment. Furthermore, the endogenous cannabinoid system, a direct target of CBD, is sexually dimorphic in humans and rodents. Therefore, the present work aimed to assess the therapeutic impact of CBD treatment on behaviour and neurochemical signalling markers in female poly I:C offspring. Time-mated pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 16) were administered poly I:C (4 mg/kg; i.v.) or saline (control) on gestational day 15. From postnatal day 56, female offspring received CBD (10 mg/kg, i.p.) or vehicle treatment for approximately 3 weeks. Following 2 weeks of CBD treatment, offspring underwent behavioural testing, including the novel object recognition, rewarded alternation T-maze and social interaction tests to assess recognition memory, working memory and sociability, respectively. After 3 weeks of CBD treatment, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus (HPC) were collected to assess effects on endocannabinoid, glutamatergic and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signalling markers. CBD attenuated poly I:C-induced deficits in recognition memory, social interaction and glutamatergic N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) binding in the PFC of poly I:C offspring. Working memory performance was similar between treatment groups. CBD also increased glutamate decarboxylase 67, the rate-limiting enzyme that converts glutamate to GABA, and parvalbumin protein levels in the HPC. In contrast to the CBD treatment effects observed in poly I:C offspring, CBD administration to control rats reduced social interaction, cannabinoid CB1 receptor and NMDAR binding density in the PFC, suggesting that CBD administration to healthy rats may have negative consequences on social behaviour and brain maturation in adulthood. Overall, the findings of this study support the therapeutic benefits of CBD on recognition memory and sociability in female poly I:C offspring, and provide insight into the neurochemical changes that may underlie the therapeutic benefits of CBD in the poly I:C model.

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