Galantamine, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor and positive allosteric modulator of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, attenuates nicotine taking and seeking in rats

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Sep;37(10):2310-21. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.83. Epub 2012 Jun 6.


Current smoking cessation pharmacotherapies have limited efficacy in preventing relapse and maintaining abstinence during withdrawal. Galantamine is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor that also acts as a positive allosteric modulator of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Galantamine has recently been shown to reverse nicotine withdrawal-induced cognitive impairments in mice, which suggests that galantamine may function to prevent relapse in human smokers. However, there are no studies examining whether galantamine administration modulates nicotine self-administration and/or reinstatement of nicotine seeking in rodents. The present experiments were designed to determine the effects of galantamine administration on nicotine taking and reinstatement of nicotine-seeking behavior, an animal model of relapse. Moreover, the effects of galantamine on sucrose-maintained responding and sucrose seeking were also examined to determine whether galantamine's effects generalized to other reinforced behaviors. An inverted U-shaped dose-response curve was obtained when animals self-administered different unit doses of nicotine with the highest responding for 0.03 mg/kg per infusion of nicotine. Acute galantamine administration (5.0 mg/kg, i.p.) attenuated nicotine self-administration when animals were maintained on either a fixed-ratio 5 (FR5) or progressive ratio (PR) schedule of reinforcement. Galantamine administration also attenuated the reinstatement of nicotine-seeking behavior. No significant effects of galantamine on sucrose self-administration or sucrose reinstatement were noted. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors have also been shown to produce nausea and vomiting in humans. However, at doses required to attenuate nicotine self-administration, no effects of galantamine on nausea/malaise as measured by pica were noted. These results indicate that increased extracellular acetylcholine levels and/or nicotinic acetylcholine receptor stimulation is sufficient to attenuate nicotine taking and seeking in rats and that these effects are reinforcer selective and not due to adverse malaise symptoms such as nausea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Animals
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / drug effects*
  • Extinction, Psychological / drug effects
  • Galantamine / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Nicotine*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects*
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Tobacco Use Disorder


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Galantamine
  • Nicotine