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article imageNicotine center of the brain found

By Tim Sandle     Nov 17, 2013 in Science
The part of the brain which becomes addicted to nicotine has been located — the interpeduncular nucleus. This could lead to treatments targeted to the region and may aid smoking cessation.
The brain region that is the home of nicotine withdrawal — the interpeduncular nucleus — is found deep within the midbrain. The connection between this brain region and nicotine has come from new research in mice.
To identify the brain region, researchers used light to stimulate GABAergic neurons within the interpeduncular nucleus to elicit withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine is a potent parasympathomimetic alkaloid found in certain plants. In the body of animals, it functions as a stimulant drug. When a cigarette is smoked, nicotine-rich blood passes from the lungs to the brain within seven seconds and immediately stimulates the release of many chemical messengers; these chemicals are responsible for the stimulating effects.
For the study, the team habituated mice to nicotine by spiking their water with the drug for six weeks. The researchers then found that when they withheld nicotine from those mice, the mice displayed the classic symptoms of withdrawal, including excessive scratching and shaking. Upon further study, the team noted increased activity in GABAergic neurons in the interpeduncular nucleus, which is linked to feelings of anxiety and receives sensory input from a variety of other brain regions.
Andrew Tapper of the University of Massachusetts Medical School led the research. Speaking to the Melbourne Herald Sun, Dr. Trapper said: "We were surprised to find that one population of neurons within a single brain region could actually control physical nicotine withdrawal behaviors."
The findings have been published in the journal Current Biology. The paper is titled "Activation of GABAergic Neurons in the Interpeduncular Nucleus Triggers Physical Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms."
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