Neuroimaging Insights Into the Role of Cortical GABA Systems and the Influence of Nicotine on the Recovery From Alcohol Dependence

Neuropharmacology. 2011 Jun;60(7-8):1318-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.01.020. Epub 2011 Jan 27.

Abstract

This paper reviews evidence suggesting that nicotine and tobacco smoke profoundly modulate the effects of alcohol on γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neuronal function, specifically at the GABA(A)-benzodiazepine receptor (GABA(A)-BZR). The focus of this paper is on recent neuroimaging evidence in preclinical models as well as clinical experiments. First, we review findings implicating the role of alcohol at the GABA(A)-BZR and discuss the changes in GABA(A)-BZR availability during acute and prolonged alcohol withdrawal. Second, we discuss preclinical evidence that suggests nicotine affects GABA neuronal function indirectly by a primary action at neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Third, we show how this evidence converges in studies that examine GABA levels and GABA(A)-BZRs in alcohol-dependent smokers and nonsmokers, suggesting that tobacco smoking attenuates the chemical changes that occur during alcohol withdrawal. Based on a comprehensive review of literature, we hypothesize that tobacco smoking minimizes the changes in GABA levels that typically occur during the acute cycles of drinking in alcohol-dependent individuals. Thus, during alcohol withdrawal, the continued tobacco smoking decreases the severity of the withdrawal-related changes in GABA chemistry. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Trends in neuropharmacology: in memory of Erminio Costa'.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Alcoholism / metabolism
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Smoking
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*

Substances

  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Nicotine