Early initiation of drug abuse is associated with increased likelihood of later dependence and a decreased probability of quitting in adulthood. These observations are supported by results of animal studies demonstrating that exposure to CNS-active drugs around the time of adolescence causes behavioral changes related to drug consumption that persist to adulthood. We have obtained similar results investigating effects of cannabinoids (drugs that act like marijuana) administered during periadolescence on the vocal development of a songbird, the zebra finch, an animal that learns a form of vocal communication during periods of late-postnatal development. We have found that cannabinoids alter zebra finch vocal development (but not already-learned adult song) and that the neural circuit that regulates this learning process contains a strikingly distinct and dense expression of cannabinoid receptors. Thus, the songbird brain provides a unique model to examine the effects of cannabinoids on neural and behavioral development. This new project will identify physiological changes responsible for cannabinoid-altered vocal learning. Because late-postnatal CMS development is characterized by similar activity-dependent processes of synaptic refinement and fiber tract maturation in both songbirds and mammalian species, what we learn about the neural mechanisms of cannabinoid-altered sensory-motor vocal learning will likely prove relevant to the problem of human marijuana abuse that typically begins during adolescence.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Biobehavioral Regulation, Learning and Ethology Study Section (BRLE)
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Volman, Susan
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East Carolina University
Schools of Medicine
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Holland, Tessa L; Soderstrom, Ken (2017) Chronic CB1 cannabinoid receptor antagonism persistently increases dendritic spine densities in brain regions important to zebra finch vocal learning and production in an antidepressant-sensitive manner. Brain Res 1672:1-9
Gilbert, Marcoita T; Soderstrom, Ken (2014) Developmental but not adult cannabinoid treatments persistently alter axonal and dendritic morphology within brain regions important for zebra finch vocal learning. Brain Res 1558:57-73
Soderstrom, Ken; Gilbert, Marcoita T (2013) Cannabinoid mitigation of neuronal morphological change important to development and learning: insight from a zebra finch model of psychopharmacology. Life Sci 92:467-75
Soderstrom, Ken; Wilson, Ashley R (2013) Developmental pattern of diacylglycerol lipase-* (DAGL*) immunoreactivity in brain regions important for song learning and control in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). J Chem Neuroanat 53:41-59
Gilbert, Marcoita T; Soderstrom, Ken (2013) Novel song-stimulated dendritic spine formation and Arc/Arg3.1 expression in zebra finch auditory telencephalon are disrupted by cannabinoid agonism. Brain Res 1541:9-21
Soderstrom, Ken; Zhang, Yuguo; Wilson, Ashley R (2012) Altered patterns of filopodia production in CHO cells heterologously expressing zebra finch CB(1) cannabinoid receptors. Cell Adh Migr 6:91-9
Soderstrom, Ken; Poklis, Justin L; Lichtman, Aron H (2011) Cannabinoid exposure during zebra finch sensorimotor vocal learning persistently alters expression of endocannabinoid signaling elements and acute agonist responsiveness. BMC Neurosci 12:3
Gilbert, Marcoita T; Soderstrom, Ken (2011) Late-postnatal cannabinoid exposure persistently elevates dendritic spine densities in area X and HVC song regions of zebra finch telencephalon. Brain Res 1405:23-30
Soderstrom, Ken; Luo, Bin (2010) Late-postnatal cannabinoid exposure persistently increases FoxP2 expression within zebra finch striatum. Dev Neurobiol 70:195-203
Soderstrom, Ken; Tian, Qiyu (2008) CB(1) cannabinoid receptor activation dose dependently modulates neuronal activity within caudal but not rostral song control regions of adult zebra finch telencephalon. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 199:265-73