06 August 2008

Nicotine Addiction

'Ever wonder why some easily get hooked to smoking and why others somewhat resist getting addicted?

It seems the key to nicotine addiction rests on dopamine receptors in the brain, according to a recent study.
Researchers in Canada have found a region in the brains of rats that may be the key to these differences. By manipulating specific molecular doorways into brain cells called receptors, they were able to control which rats in the study enjoyed their first exposure to nicotine and which were repelled by it.

"Our findings may explain an individual's vulnerability to nicotine addiction and may point to new pharmacological treatments for the prevention of it and the treatment of nicotine withdrawal," said Dr. Steven Laviolette of the University of Western Ontario, who reported his findings in the Journal of Neuroscience.

To explore the difference, Laviolette and colleagues did a series of experiments on rats, which have brain structures similar to humans.

They zeroed in on two areas in the reward circuit of the brain called
nucleus accumbens. They found specific receptors of the message-carrying chemical dopamine in the core and shell of the nucleus accumbens controlled whether the rats enjoyed or were repelled by nicotine.

When the researchers blocked two types of dopamine receptors ---
D-1 and D-2 --- with drugs delivered to these areas of the nucleus accumbens, the rats experienced nicotine as a positive, rewarding experience. ~ Reuters, 5 Aug 2008

That dopamine receptor system in the brain also accounts for other problems like alcohol and cocaine addictions. If scientists can devise pharmacologic agents which will target the receptor system and make the brain resist the mentioned dangerous substances, then we might soon get rid of smoking, and other problematic addictions.
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