Mind

Nic Fix Sticks Quick

By Kathy A SvitilApr 1, 2001 12:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

More evidence of the addictive power of nicotine: Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that just a single cigarette's worth of the tobacco-smoke compound can cause dramatic, lasting changes in the brain.

Neurobiologists Daniel McGehee and Huibert Mansvelder found that nicotine binds to receptors on a group of neurons in a part of lab rats' brains called the reward area, which plays an important role in addiction. Those neurons release a chemical that prompts other cells to produce copious amounts of the feel-good hormone dopamine. A one-time exposure to nicotine is all it takes to strengthen the communication between the neurons and the other cells, leaving a chemical memory of the drug— and a desire to repeat that first heady buzz. The researchers haven't yet determined whether something similar happens in the human brain. "But if we are correct, drugs that target that receptor and block it could help protect people against addiction," McGehee says. A vaccine against cigarettes? "It's a long shot, I know, but it's possible."

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Magazine Examples
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.