Taking cannabinoids during pregnancy can cause behavioral and neuronal deficits in adult male offspring, while females remain unaffected, says new research published in eLife.

The study in rats, from the Inserm and Aix-Marseille University Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology, France, and Roma Tre University, Italy, in collaboration with Indiana University, US, suggests that prenatal cannabinoid use can lead to less sociability and increased neuronal excitability in males only. The findings also point towards a potential pharmacological strategy to help reverse these effects in humans.

Senior author Olivier Manzoni, Inserm Research Director at the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology, and Director of the CannaLab at the institute, says: “As cannabinoids can cross the placenta, they may interfere with fetal endocannabinoid signaling during neurodevelopment, which is involved in regulating a variety of processes such as pregnancy, appetite, pain sensation, and mediating the pharmacological effects of cannabis. This could in turn lead to some serious long-term deficits. But despite increasing reports of cannabis consumption during pregnancy, the long-term consequences of prenatal cannabinoid exposure remain incompletely understood.”

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