Cannabinoids in the descending pain modulatory circuit: Role in inflammation

Courtney A. Bouchet, Susan L. Ingram

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The legalization of cannabis in some states has intensified interest in the potential for cannabis and its constituents to lead to novel therapeutics for pain. Our understanding of the cellular mechanisms underlying cannabinoid actions in the brain have lagged behind opioids; however, the current opioid epidemic has also increased attention on the use of cannabinoids as alternatives to opioids for pain, especially chronic pain that requires long-term use. Endogenous cannabinoids are lipid signaling molecules that have complex roles in modulating neuronal function throughout the brain. In this review, we discuss cannabinoid functions in the descending pain modulatory pathway, a brain circuit that integrates cognitive and emotional processing of pain to modulate incoming sensory inputs. In addition, we highlight areas where further studies are necessary to understand cannabinoid regulation of descending pain modulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107495
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Analgesia
  • Cannabinoid
  • Endocannabinoid
  • Pain
  • Periaqueductal gray
  • Presynaptic terminals
  • Rostral ventromedial medulla

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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