Accentuated behavioral sensitization to nicotine in the neonatal ventral hippocampal lesion model of schizophrenia

Sarah A. Berg, R. Andrew Chambers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


The prevalence of smoking in schizophrenia patients far exceeds that in the general population. Increased vulnerability to nicotine and other drug addictions in schizophrenia may reflect the impact of developmental limbic abnormalities on cortical-striatal mediation of behavioral changes associated with drug use. Rats with neonatal ventral hippocampal lesions (NVHLs), a neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia, have previously been shown to exhibit altered patterns of behavioral sensitization to both cocaine and ethanol. This study explored nicotine sensitization in NVHLs by testing locomotor activity of NVHL vs. SHAM-operated controls over 3 weeks in response to nicotine (0.5 mg/kg) or saline injections (s.c.) followed by a nicotine challenge delivered to all rats 2 weeks later. At the beginning of the initial injection series, post-injection locomotor activation was indistinguishable among all treatment groups. However, nicotine but not saline injections produced a progressive sensitization effect that was greater in NVHLs compared to SHAMs. In the challenge session, rats with previous nicotine history showed enhanced locomotor activation to nicotine when compared to drug naïve rats, with NVHL-nicotine rats showing the greatest degree of activity overall. These results demonstrate that NVHLs exhibit altered short- and long-term sensitization profiles to nicotine, similar to altered long-term sensitization profiles produced by cocaine and ethanol. Collectively, these findings suggest the neurodevelopmental underpinnings of schizophrenia produce enhanced behavioral sensitization to addictive drugs as an involuntary and progressive neurobehavioral process, independent of the acute psychoactive properties uniquely attributed to nicotine, cocaine, or alcohol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1201-1207
Number of pages7
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008


  • Addiction
  • Dual diagnosis
  • Mental illness
  • Nicotine
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology

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