A study of rat brain slices published in Journal of Neuroscience demonstrates how nicotine interacts with cells that regulate the output of a brain region involved in habit formation.
The research could inform efforts to help people quit smoking and avoid relapse.
The addictive qualities of nicotine have been attributed to the brain’s reward system.
However, recent research suggests that a shift of activity from the ventral to the dorsal striatum, which parallels the transition of an intentional behavior into a more automatic habit, may have an important role in the development of nicotine addiction.
Louise Adermark and colleagues found that nicotine reduces dorsal striatal output, an effect that persists even after the drug has been cleared from the brain.
These changes in neuronal activity may underlie the urge to smoke as well as make it difficult to break the habit.
This advance in our understanding of nicotine addiction may help to decrease smoking prevalence.
Funding: Stiftelsen Psykiatriska Forskningsfonden, Swedish Brain Foundation, Swedish Medical Research Council funded this study.
Source: David Barnstone – SfN
Image Source: Licheri et al., JNeurosci (2018).
Original Research: Abstract for “Complex control of striatal neurotransmission by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors via excitatory inputs onto medium spiny neurons” by Valentina Licheri, Oona Lagström, Amir Lotfi, Mary H. Patton, Holger Wigström, Brian Mathur and Louise Adermark in Journal of Neuroscience. Published June 25 2018.