Endocannabinoids (eCBs) regulate neuronal activity in the dorso-lateral striatum (DLS), a brain region that is involved in habitual behaviors. How synaptic eCB signaling contributes to habitual behaviors under physiological and pathological conditions remains unclear. Using a mouse model of cannabinoid tolerance, we found that persistent activation of the eCB pathway impaired eCB-mediated long-term depression (LTD) and synaptic depotentiation in the DLS. The loss of eCB LTD, occurring preferentially at cortical connections to striatopallidal neurons, was associated with a shift in behavioral control from goal-directed action to habitual responding. eCB LTD and behavioral alterations were rescued by in vivo modulation of small-conductance calcium activated potassium channel (SK channel) activity in the DLS, which potentiates eCB signaling. Our results reveal a direct relationship between drug tolerance and changes in control of instrumental performance by establishing a central role for eCB LTD in habit expression. In addition, SK channels emerge as molecular targets to fine tune the eCB pathway under pathological conditions.
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