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j a n u a r y 2 0 0 8 brain
b r i e f i n g S
ThankS To reSearch
Smoking and Schizophrenia
to extract more nicotine per
? Schizophrenia patients have
advanceS, ScienTiSTS
Scientists have found that
cigarette than other smokers.
fewer and more poorly func-
smoking and schizophrenia
Nicotine and its brain recep-
tioning nicotinic receptors,
are learning how
are tightly linked, but are not
tors—proteins on the surface of
especially in the hippocampus,
and why Smoking and
sure why. Could nicotine actu-
cells that receive chemical mes-
cortex, and cells that wrap the
Schizophrenia are So
ally be helping the disorder?
sages—are keys to understand-
thalamus—brain areas involved
TighTly linked. nicoTine—
If so, then it is a double-edged
ing the links between smoking
in several cognitive and sen-
in cigareTTeS and oTher
sword, because smoking is a
and schizophrenia. Already,
sory deficits of schizophrenia.
formS—appearS To help
life-threatening behavior.
research has revealed that:
Increased nicotine intake—
Now, new research on the
? Nicotine and its recep-
from smoking cigarettes or
normalize Some of The
effects of nicotine in people
tors are involved in functions
sometimes from a skin patch,
cogniTive and SenSory
with schizophrenia is beginning
such as cognition or think-
gum, or nasal spray—may
deficiTS ThaT people
to answer these questions and
ing ability, reward, move-
temporarily normalize sensory
wiTh ThiS diSorder
uncover clues that may help
ment, and pain relief.
disruptions of schizophrenia.
experience. ScienTiSTS
to treat this serious disorder.
have looked inSide
Schizophrenia is character-
ized by disordered thinking;
The brain To uncover
hallucinations, such as hear-
regionS involved in
ing voices; and delusions,
deficiTS of Schizophrenia
such as paranoid beliefs that
and To learn how
people are conspiring against
and where nicoTine
you. Schizophrenia affects
workS To combaT
about 1 percent of the popula-
tion and places a substantial
Them. now, enhanced
burden on those afflicted,
knowledge iS helping
their families, and society.
ScienTiSTS develop
Many people with schizo-
drugS To TreaT ThiS
phrenia smoke, and their
debiliTaTing diSorder.
unique smoking behaviors have
led scientists to believe that nic-
otine, the addicting substance in
E
r
tobacco, may represent a form
t
yl
of self-medication, normalizing
some central nervous system
t
I
on by Ethan
deficits involved in the disorder.
Illustra
People with schizophrenia
p? The?image?above?shows?regions?of?The?brain?involved?in?learning?and?
smoke up to three times more
memory.?PeoPle?wiTh?schizoPhrenia?have?fewer?and?more?Poorly?funcTion-
than the general population
ing?nicoTinic?recePTors?in?some?of?These?regions,?esPecially?The?hiPPocamPus,?
and more than most psychiatric
corTex,?and?cells?ThaT?wraP?The?Thalamus.?research?indicaTes?ThaT?nicoTine?
populations. Schizophrenia
may?imProve?cogniTive?and?sensory?deficiTs?of?schizoPhrenia?by?increasing?
patients who smoke also have
higher levels of nicotine in
deficienT?levels?of?The?chemical?doPamine?in?areas?of?The?brain?like?The?nucleus?
their bodies because they tend
accumbens?and?PrefronTal?corTex.

eve e. marder, phd
For example, nicotine may
phrenia. According to one study,
not have adverse health conse-
President
improve eye tracking abnor-
receiving nicotine through a
quences. Researchers now are
Brandeis University
malities, mostly by altering
skin patch reversed the cogni-
working on safer and less toxic
activity in the hippocampus
tive slowing associated with
drugs that potentially could
ThomaS J. carew, phd
and brain areas involved in eye
haloperidol, a common drug
enhance cognition. These drugs
President-Elect
movement. Nicotine also has
for schizophrenia. Nicotine
may help treat schizophrenia.
been reported to improve the
may improve lack of motiva-
One type of nicotinic recep-
University of California, Irvine
brain’s ability to filter sounds
tion and indifference in this
tor, known as the alpha-7 recep-
and to respond and adapt
population, as well. However,
tor, is proving to be a major
david van eSSen, phd
to strong sensory inputs.
it remains unclear if nicotine
target for schizophrenia drug
Past President
Cognitive ability in people
minimizes hallucinations and
development. These receptors
Washington University
with schizophrenia may get a
delusions, and some stud-
are found in brain regions im-
School of Medicine
boost from nicotine as well,
ies have reported that people
portant for cognition, including
including temporary enhance-
with schizophrenia who quit
the cortex and hippocampus.
for more informaTion
ments in learning, memory,
smoking did not experience
Already, scientists have com-
Please contact the public
processing speed, and attention.
worsening of their symptoms.
pleted preliminary tests of drugs
information department
Several studies have examined
Nicotine may help lessen
for schizophrenic nonsmokers
at publicinfo@sfn.org or
spatial working memory—the
some symptoms of schizophre-
based on a toxin, called anaba-
ability to hold information in
nia by increasing deficient levels
seine, found in marine worms
(202) 962-4000
the brain and recall it when
of the chemical dopamine—
and ants. Subjects showed im-
prompted. Spatial working
which is thought to regulate
proved sensory processing and
paST iSSueS
memory is involved in plan-
key emotional responses—in
cognition, especially attention.
www.sfn.org/brie?ngs
ning, judgment, and atten-
areas of the brain such as the
Scientists continue to
tion—tasks that people with
nucleus accumbens and pre-
research the biology and
schizophrenia find difficult.
frontal cortex. The nucleus ac-
function of different nico-
Schizophrenia patients who
cumbens is involved in reward
tinic receptors. As knowledge
smoked or who received nasal
and pleasure, and the prefrontal
advances, so will develop-
spray nicotine temporarily
cortex organizes complex cog-
ment of new and safer drugs
enhanced their spatial work-
nitive and social behaviors.
to help treat schizophrenia.
ing memory, and those who
Since evidence shows that
Hopefully, better symptom
quit had further impairments.
nicotine positively affects
control also will lessen the
Smoking also may help de-
schizophrenia, scientists are
desire for nicotine, and help
crease medication side effects
exploring drugs that act like
people with schizophre-
and other symptoms of schizo-
nicotine in the brain but do
nia snuff out smoking.
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harriSonburg, va
Smoking and Schizophrenia