Recently, synthetic cannabinoids have been sprayed onto plant material, which is subsequently packaged and sold as “Spice” or “K2” to mimic the effects of marijuana. A recent report identified several synthetic additives in samples of “Spice/K2”, including JWH-081, a synthetic ligand for the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1). The deleterious effects of JWH-081 on brain function are not known, particularly on CB1 signaling, synaptic plasticity, learning and memory. Here, we evaluated the effects of JWH-081 on pCaMKIV, pCREB, and pERK1/2 signaling events followed by long-term potentiation (LTP), hippocampal-dependent learning and memory tasks using CB1 receptor wild-type (WT) and knockout (KO) mice. Acute administration of JWH-081 impaired CaMKIV phosphorylation in a dose-dependent manner, whereas inhibition of CREB phosphorylation in CB1 receptor WT mice was observed only at higher dose of JWH-081 (1.25 mg/kg). JWH-081 at higher dose impaired CaMKIV and CREB phosphorylation in a time-dependent manner in CB1 receptor WT mice but not in KO mice and failed to alter ERK1/2 phosphorylation. In addition, SR treated or CB1 receptor KO mice have a lower pCaMKIV/CaMKIV ratio and higher pCREB/CREB ratio compared with vehicle or WT littermates. In hippocampal slices, JWH-081 impaired LTP in CB1 receptor WT but not in KO littermates. Furthermore, JWH-081 at higher dose impaired object recognition, spontaneous alternation and spatial memory on the Y-maze in CB1 receptor WT mice but not in KO mice. Collectively our findings suggest that deleterious effects of JWH-081 on hippocampal function involves CB1 receptor mediated impairments in CaMKIV and CREB phosphorylation, LTP, learning and memory in mice. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.