Frequency-dependent modulation of dopamine release by nicotine

Nat Neurosci. 2004 Jun;7(6):581-2. doi: 10.1038/nn1243. Epub 2004 May 16.


Although nicotine activation of dopamine release is implicated in addiction, it also desensitizes nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), leading to a prolonged depression of evoked dopamine release. Here we show that nicotine's effects depend on the firing pattern of dopamine neurons, so that while desensitization of nAChRs indeed curbs dopamine released by stimuli emulating tonic firing, it allows a rapid rise in dopamine from stimuli emulating phasic firing patterns associated with incentive/salience paradigms. Nicotine may thus enhance the contrast of dopamine signals associated with behavioral cues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects*
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism


  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine
  • Dopamine