Nicotine effects in adolescence and adulthood on cognition and α4β2-nicotinic receptors in the neonatal ventral hippocampal lesion rat model of schizophrenia

Sarah A. Berg, Alena M. Sentir, Richard L. Bell, Eric A. Engleman, R. Andrew Chambers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Rational: Nicotine use in schizophrenia has traditionally been explained as "self-medication" of cognitive and/or nicotinic acetylcholinergic receptor (nAChR) abnormalities. Objectives: We test this hypothesis in a neurodevelopmental rat model of schizophrenia that shows increased addiction behaviors including enhanced nicotine reinforcement and drug-seeking. Methods: Nicotine transdermal patch (5 mg/kg/day vs. placebo∈×∈10 days in adolescence or adulthood) effects on subsequent radial-arm maze learning (15 sessions) and frontal-cortical-striatal nAChR densities (α4β2; [3H]-epibatidine binding) were examined in neonatal ventral hippocampal lesion (NVHL) and SHAM-operated rats. Results: NVHL cognitive deficits were not differentially affected by nicotine history compared to SHAMs. Nicotine history produced minimal cognitive effects while increasing food-reward consumption on the maze, compounding with NVHL-induced overconsumption. Acute nicotine (0.5 mg/kg) delivered before the final maze sessions produced modest improvements in maze performance in rats with nicotine patch histories only, but not differentially so in NVHLs. Consistent with in vivo neuroimaging of β2 nAChR binding in schizophrenia smokers vs. non-smokers and healthy controls, adult NVHLs showed 12% reductions in nAChR binding in MPFC (p∈<∈0.05) but not ventral striatum (<5% changes, p∈>∈.40), whereas nicotine history elevated nAChRs across both regions (>30%, p∈<∈0.001) without interacting with NVHLs. Adolescent vs. adult nicotine exposure did not alter nAChRs differentially. Conclusions: Although replicating nicotine-induced upregulation of nAChRs in human smokers and demonstrating NVHL validity in terms of schizophrenia-associated nAChR density patterns, these findings do not support hypotheses explaining increased nicotine use in schizophrenia as reflecting illness-specific effects of nicotine to therapeutically alter cognition or nAChR densities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1681-1692
Number of pages12
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Addiction
  • Animal model
  • Cognition
  • Hippocampus
  • Nicotine
  • Nicotinic receptor
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Schizophrenia
  • Striatum
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

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