A group of cells within one brain region may control the physical symptoms that plague people trying to kick their nicotine addiction.
In a new study, researchers laced mice’s water with nicotine and then took the drug away. In withdrawal, the mice shook, scratched and nodded their heads more than healthy animals. A close look at the drugged animals’ brains showed extra activity in cells within the interpeduncular nucleus, which sits right above the brain stem.
Shining light on those brain cells made the mice experience nicotine withdrawal, even if the animals had never been exposed to the drug. Treatments that reduced activity in the cells decreased the rodents’ nicotine withdrawal symptoms, the researchers report November 14 in Current Biology.
The findings offer an early indication that targeting brain cells in the interpeduncular nucleus of humans could suppress nicotine addiction and help people stop smoking or using smokeless tobacco.