Accumulating evidence suggests that α7 nicotinic receptors (α7 nAChRs), a subtype of nAChRs, play a role in the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric diseases, including schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease (AD). A number of psychopharmacological and genetic studies shown that α7 nAChRs play an important role in the deficits of P50 auditory evoked potential in patients with schizophrenia, and that (α nAChR agonists would be potential therapeutic drugs for cognitive impairments associated with P50 deficits in schizophrenia. Furthermore, some studies have demonstrated that α7 nAChRs might play a key role in the amyloid-β (Aβ)-mediated pathology of AD, and that α7 nAChR agonists would be potential therapeutic drugs for Aβ deposition in the brains of patients with AD. Interestingly, the altered expression of α7 nAChRs in the postmortem brain tissues from patients with schizophrenia and AD has been reported. Based on all these findings, selective α7 nAChR agonists can be considered potential therapeutic drugs for cognitive impairments in both schizophrenia and AD. In this article, we review the recent research into the role of α7 nAChRs in the pathophysiology of these diseases and into the potential use of novel α7 nAChR agonists as therapeutic drugs.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease.; Cognition; Schizophrenia; α7 Nicotinic receptors.