The neuronal pathways mediating the behavioral and addictive properties of nicotine

David J. K. Balfour

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingOther chapter contribution

    87 Citations (Scopus)


    This chapter considers the neurobiological mechanisms that are thought to mediate the reinforcing or rewarding properties of nicotine. It focuses on the data (derived principally from studies with experimental animals) showing that nicotine, like other drugs of dependence, stimulates the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) neurones that project to the nucleus accumbens and that these effects play a pivotal role in the biology underlying nicotine dependence. The reinforcing or rewarding properties of nicotine are thought to be associated particularly with the increase in DA overflow evoked in the shell subdivision of the accumbens. However, behavioural studies suggest that these properties of nicotine in experimental animals do not seem to be sufficiently potent to explain the powerful addiction to tobacco experienced by most habitual smokers. This chapter also considers the biological mechanisms that mediate the effects of cues and stimuli associated with the presentation of nicotine, which are thought to contribute significantly to the powerful addictive properties of tobacco smoke.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Experimental Pharmacology
    Number of pages25
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


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