Reward, addiction, withdrawal to nicotine

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2011;34:105-30. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-061010-113734.

Abstract

Nicotine is the principal addictive component that drives continued tobacco use despite users' knowledge of the harmful consequences. The initiation of addiction involves the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system, which contributes to the processing of rewarding sensory stimuli during the overall shaping of successful behaviors. Acting mainly through nicotinic receptors containing the α4 and β2 subunits, often in combination with the α6 subunit, nicotine increases the firing rate and the phasic bursts by midbrain dopamine neurons. Neuroadaptations arise during chronic exposure to nicotine, producing an altered brain condition that requires the continued presence of nicotine to be maintained. When nicotine is removed, a withdrawal syndrome develops. The expression of somatic withdrawal symptoms depends mainly on the α5, α2, and β4 (and likely α3) nicotinic subunits involving the epithalamic habenular complex and its targets. Thus, nicotine taps into diverse neural systems and an array of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtypes to influence reward, addiction, and withdrawal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / pathology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Nicotine / adverse effects*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism
  • Reward*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / etiology*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / pathology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology*

Substances

  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine
  • Dopamine