Actions Of Nicotine On The Brain

The nicotine molecule is shaped like acetycholine (Benowitz, 2001). Nicotine activates certain cholinergic receptors in the brain that would ordinarily be activated by acetylcholine. By activating cholinergic receptors, nicotine enhances the release of neurotransmitters and hormones, including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, vasopressin, serotonin, and beta-endorphin. The cholinergic activation leads to behavioral arousal and sympathetic neural activation. The release of specific neurotransmitters has been specifically linked to particular reinforcing effects of nicotine. Enhanced release of dopamine, nor-epinephrine, and serotonin may be associated with pleasure, mood elavation, and appetite suppression. Release of acetycholine may be associated with improved performance on behavioral tasks and improvement of memory, and the release of beta-endorphin may be associated with the reduction of anxiety and tension (Benowitz, 2001).

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