Canadian researchers have discovered the way to manipulate how the brain processes the addictive and rewarding properties of cigarettes, which could lead to treatments that prevent nicotine addiction in those most susceptible to it.
Researchers from the University of Western Ontario conducted an experiment in mice to explore why some people are turned off by their first experiences with nicotine while others enjoy it and quickly become addicted.
They identified the subtype of the neurotransmitter dopamine that controls the initial susceptibility to the pleasurable rewards of nicotine.
In fact, they found that they could control dopamine signals to influence if the mice processed their first exposure to nicotine as a positive or negative experience.
Dopamine also influences addiction to substances such as cocaine and alcohol.
The researchers said their findings could lead to a number of new developments.
"Importantly, our findings may explain an individual's vulnerability to nicotine addiction, and may point to new pharmacological treatments for the prevention of it and the treatment of nicotine withdrawal," lead researcher Steven Laviolette, of Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, said in a statement.
The findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.