Assistant Professor of Biology
Cells & Genes (BI 112N), General and Molecular Physiology (BI308), Neuroscience (BI 397), Receptor Pharmacology (BI 412), Integration of Biology (BI 498), Molecules and the Mind (Winter Term), A Brain by Any Other Name (Autumn Term), Western Heritage in a Global Context I&II (WH 181, 182)
Cannabinoid biology, neurophysiology, evolutionary neurobiology, pharmacology, synaptic plasticity, drug addiction
My research focuses on the physiology and evolutionary neurobiology of theendocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoids are lipid signaling molecules that activate CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, so named because these cell surface proteins are targets of compounds found in the cannabis plant, especially the psychoactive constituent Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis has been used by humans since antiquity, and there is currently a great resurgence of interest to understand and clarify its potential as a botanical medicine. These questions rely on a clear biological understanding of the ECS.
The ECS is now well understood to be a widespread regulator of homeostasis throughout the body, playing major roles in the nervous, immune, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and endocrine systems. In the brain, neurons release endocannabinoids as a means to “fine tune” their own synaptic inputs, thus representing a prominent form of cellular feedback and synaptic plasticity within neuronal circuits. These mechanisms are important for how the brain perceives sensory inputs, motivates behaviors, prevents neurotoxicity under conditions of pathology and stress, and accomplishes various forms of learning and memory.
One of my primary interests is the observed activation of ECS signaling by physical exercise, and how it may inform the use of physical activity for disease prevention, therapeutic interventions and general well-being.
My lab is also actively exploring the evolutionary emergence of cannabinoid receptors by investigating their function in marine invertebrate chordates, specifically the sea squirt Ciona intestinalis and the lancelet Branchiostoma floridae.
In the Media
National Geographic – Read National Geographic News coverage of Dr. Gerdeman’s research on endocannabinoids and the evolution of endurance running behaviors.
Men’s Health animation on How Running Makes You High
Time Magazine – quoted in The Great Pot Experiment (2015)
Runner’s World – quoted in Is Marijuana the Source of a New Runner’s High?
Tampa Bay Times – Dr. Gerdeman profiled in Cannabinoid receptor research outlines why pot may work as medicine (2014)
Guest editorial on low-THC cannabis: Science is Indisputable: Marijuana is Medicine (2014)
Dr. Gerdeman quoted in Study suggests medical marijuana reduces opiate overdoses (2014)
Co-Principal Investigator, “Neurobiological Rewards in the Evolution of Endurance Running in Humans and Cursorial Mammals.” Funded by the National Science Foundation, 2008-2011. Collaboration with Dr. David Raichlen (Univ Arizona) and Dr. Andrea Giuffrida (Univ Texas at San Antonio).
Postdoctoral research, “The Functional Neurobiology of Cannabinoids in Brain” (U01 DA14263-04). Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse; 2002-2007.
Predoctoral research, “Cannabinoid Modulation of Neostriatal Glutamate Release.” National Research Service Award, (F31 DA05928). Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse; 1999-2001.
Music and nature. Traditional West African percussion and other hand drumming. Philosophies of nonviolence and interdependence. I am fascinated by spiritual practices of contemplative and shamanic traditions and the intersection of these practices (and world views) with the perspectives of modern neuroscience. Meditation, hiking, and camping are all important in my life. I have served on the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board of Americans for Safe Access, and am faculty sponsor for the Eckerd chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Published articles and book chapters
Raichlen, D.A., Foster, A.D., Gerdeman, G.L., Seiller, A. and Giuffrida, A. (2012) Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implication for the runner’s high. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 215: 1331-1336.
Raichlen, D.A., Foster, A.D., Seiller, A., Giuffrida, A. and Gerdeman, G.L., (2012) Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity.European Journal of Applied Physiology, DOI:10.1007/s00421-012-2495-5.
Gerdeman, G.L. and Schechter (2010) The molecular physiology of endocannabinoids. In The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis; Its Role in Medicine, Politics, Science and Culture. Julie Holland, ed. (Park Street Press), pp. 52-62.
Gerdeman, G.L., Schechter, J.B. and French, E.D. (2008) Context-specific reversal of locomotor sensitization to cocaine by the CB1 receptor antagonist rimonabant. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33: 2747-2759.
Keeney, B.K., Raichlen, D.A., Meek, T.H., Wijeratne, R.S., Middleton, K.M.,Gerdeman, G.L. and Garland, T. (2008) Differential response to a selective cannabinoid receptor antagonist (SR141716: rimonabant) in female mice from lines selectively bred for high voluntary wheel-running behaviour. Behavioural Pharmacology, 19: 812-820.
Gerdeman, G.L. (2008) Endocannabinoids at the synapse – retrograde signaling and presynaptic plasticity in the brain. In Cannabinoids and the Brain, Attila Köfalvi, ed. (Springer: New York) pp. 203-236.
Gerdeman, G.L. and Fernández-Ruiz, J. (2008) The endocannabinoid system in the physiology and pathology of the basal ganglia. In Cannabinoids and the Brain, Attila Köfalvi, ed. (Springer: New York) pp. 423-483.
Ronesi, J., Gerdeman, G. L. and Lovinger, D. M. (2004) Disruption of endocannabinoid release and striatal long-term depression by postsynaptic blockade of endocannabinoid membrane transport. Journal of Neuroscience, 24(7): 1673-1679.
Gerdeman, G. L., Partridge, J. P., Lupica, C. R. and Lovinger, D. M. (2003) It could be habit forming: drugs of abuse and striatal synaptic plasticity. Trends in Neurosciences, 26(4): 184-192.
Gerdeman, G.L. and Lovinger, D.M. (2003) Emerging roles for endocannabinoids in long-term synaptic plasticity. British Journal of Pharmacology, 140: 781-789.
Gerdeman, G. L., Ronesi, J. and Lovinger, D. M. (2002) Postsynaptic endocannabinoid release is critical to long-term depression in the striatum. Nature Neuroscience 5: 446-451.
Gerdeman, G. and Lovinger, D. M. (2001) CB1 cannabinoid receptor inhibits synaptic release of glutamate in rat dorsolateral striatum. Journal of Neurophysiology 85: 468-471.