Nicotine addiction targets the brain

A few cigarettes can trigger a lifetime of predisposition to nicotine use, say UAB researchers in the Feb. 16, 2011, issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Robin Lester, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurobiology, says that the effects of even a short period of nicotine use may cause long-lasting changes to the hippocampus region of the brain. 

“Learning and memory may be important factors that drive people to relapse and/or help maintain nicotine use by associating secondary sensory cues with smoking,” Lester said. 

Lester says the research findings show there are two phases during withdrawal, and the study indicates that it may be possible to prevent the second phase from occurring, possibly by use of medications to moderate stress during the early phase of withdrawal.