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Effects of nicotine on the nucleus accumbens and similarity to those of addictive drugs


THE question of whether nicotine, the neuroactive compound of tobacco, is addictive has been open to considerable scientific and public discussion. Although it can serve as a positive reinforcer in several animal species, including man, nicotine is thought to be a weak reinforcer in comparison with addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin1,2, and has been argued to be habit forming but not addictive3,4. Here we report that intravenous nicotine in the rat, at doses known to maintain self-administration, stimulates local energy metabolism, as measured by 2-deoxyglucose autoradiography, and dopamine transmission, as estimated by brain microdialysis, in the shell of the nucleus accumbens. These neurochemical and metabolic effects are qualitatively similar to those of other drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamine and morphine, which have strong addictive properties5–7. Our results provide functional and neurochemical evidence that there are specific neurobiological commonalities between nicotine and addictive drugs.

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Pontieri, F., Tanda, G., Orzi, F. et al. Effects of nicotine on the nucleus accumbens and similarity to those of addictive drugs. Nature 382, 255–257 (1996).

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