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The endocannabinoid system of the brain: A potential therapeutic target for the treatment of anxiety disorders in traumatised patients?
It is essential for the survival of man and animal to recognise and adequately react to potentially harmful situations. The latter capability is characterised by an initial fear response that wanes in absence of the expected calamity. Following a traumatic event, a subset of humans and animals is no longer able to recover from the incidence. We use fear conditioning in mice in order to characterise cellular correlates of this maladaptation. According to our studies, the fear reaction following conditioning consists of associative and non-associative memory components. Our data indicate that primarily the non-associative component encodes information about the aversive encounter, and is susceptible to extinction. Experiments with mutant mice and pharmacological intervention suggest that this adaptive process critically depends on the endogenous cannabinoid system of the brain, which seems to represent a promising therapeutic target for the treatment of certain anxiety disorders associated with traumatic experiences.