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Brain’s Nicotine Center Found

Researchers pinpoint the interpeduncular nucleus as the home of nicotine withdrawal, suggesting that treatments targeted to region may aid smoking cessation.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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FLICKR, ESTRES BACHMONTA brain region called the interpeduncular nucleus, nestled deep within the midbrain, is the seat of nicotine withdrawal, according to new research in mice. Andrew Tapper of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and his colleagues used light to stimulate GABAergic neurons within the interpeduncular nucleus to elicit withdrawal symptoms even in mice who had not been exposed to nicotine. “We were surprised to find that one population of neurons within a single brain region could actually control physical nicotine withdrawal behaviors,” Tapper told the Melbourne Herald Sun.

Tapper and his collaborators habituated mice to nicotine by spiking their water with the drug for six weeks. When the researchers then withheld nicotine from those mice, they exhibited the classic symptoms of withdrawal—excessive scratching and shaking among them. They then noted increased activity in GABAergic neurons in the interpeduncular nucleus, which is linked to feelings of anxiety...

The results hint that treatments aimed at the interpeduncular nucleus could help wean users off of nicotine or other drugs of addiction, according to Topper.

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