Reversal of diminished inhibitory sensory gating in cocaine addicts by a nicotinic cholinergic mechanism

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2001 Jun;24(6):671-9. doi: 10.1016/S0893-133X(00)00242-6.


Cocaine addiction, as with other stimulant abuse, produces psychotic symptoms. Although often moderate to mild in severity, these symptoms are, nevertheless, associated with poorer over-all outcome. Recent studies suggest diminished nicotinic cholinergic neurotransmission as a mechanism of a physiological deficit found in schizophrenia, failure of auditory sensory inhibition. Diminished inhibitory sensory gating also occurs in cocaine addicts, probably because of their increased catecholaminergic neurotransmission, which blocks the inhibition. In the present study, 11 cocaine addicts in the first week of detoxification were recorded electrophysiologically, after which the effects of 6 mg of nicotine gum, were assessed in a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover design. The test was repeated 10 days later. Treatment with nicotine, but not placebo, briefly reversed the inhibitory abnormality on both test days. Although nicotine itself may not be a desirable therapeutic agent, because desensitization of nicotinic receptors limits the time course of its effect, the study identifies a previously unexploited therapeutic target for new drug development for the neuropsychiatric sequelae of cocaine addiction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / drug effects
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cocaine / adverse effects
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / chemically induced
  • Hallucinations / drug therapy
  • Hallucinations / physiopathology
  • Hearing Disorders / drug therapy
  • Hearing Disorders / etiology*
  • Hearing Disorders / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy
  • Psychotic Disorders / etiology
  • Psychotic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism


  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine
  • Acetylcholine