Chronic infusions of mecamylamine into the medial habenula: Effects on nicotine self-administration in rats.


The habenula is an epithalamic structure through which descending connections go from the telencephalon to the brainstem, putting it in a key location to provide feedback control over the ascending projections from the brainstem to the telencephalon. The medial habenula has a high concentration of nicotinic receptors. We assessed the role of medial habenular nicotinic receptors for nicotine self-administration (SA) in female young adult Sprague-Dawley rats. The rats had bilateral chronic infusion cannulae placed into the medial habenula nucleus. Each cannula was connected to a slow delivery osmotic minipump to chronically infuse mecamylamine (100 µg/side/day) or vehicle for four consecutive weeks. The rats were tested for nicotine SA for the first two weeks of mecamylamine infusion. Then, they had one week of enforced abstinence, during which they had no access to the nicotine SA. Finally, they had one week of resumed nicotine SA access. There was a significantly differential mecamylamine effects in animals with lower and higher pretreatment baseline nicotine SA. Rats with lower baseline nicotine SA levels showed a nearly significant mecamylamine-induced reduction in SA while those with higher baseline levels of SA showed a significant mecamylamine-induced increase in nicotine SA. This study determined that medial habenular nicotinic receptors are important for nicotine reinforcement. Baseline level of performance makes a crucial difference for the involvement of habenular mechanisms in nicotine reinforcement with nicotinic activation being important for maintaining nicotine self-administration for those with lower levels of baseline self-administration and the opposite effect with subjects with higher levels of baseline self-administration.





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Publication Info

Levin, Edward D, Corinne Wells, Susan Slade, Joshua Johnson, Ann Petro, Amir H Rezvani and Jed E Rose (2022). Chronic infusions of mecamylamine into the medial habenula: Effects on nicotine self-administration in rats. Behavioural brain research, 416. p. 113574. 10.1016/j.bbr.2021.113574 Retrieved from

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Amir H. Rezvani

Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

My research and teaching interests have been primarily focused on the following areas:

Alcoholism: I work with "alcoholic" rats with genetic predisposition!" We use selectively-bred alcohol preferring rats as an animal model of human alcoholism for developing better pharmacological treatments for alcoholism. Recently, we are working on several novel promising "anti-craving" compounds for the treatment of alcoholism. We are also studying the interaction between alcohol drinking and nicotine intake.

Nicotine Addiction: We have been studying age and sex differences in i.v. nicotine self-administration in rats. We have found that pattern of drug intake is both age- and sex-dependent. Our lab is also exploring different neuronal targets for developing better pharmacologic treatment for nicotine addiction.

Sustained Attention: Another aspect of our research is studying the role of the neuronal nicotinic and other neuronal systems in sustained attention using a rodent model. We have shown, nicotine (not smoking!) and nicotinic compounds improve attention in rats. A majority of people with schizophrenia smoke and they smoke heavily. Thus, it is important to understand the interaction of antipsychotic medications and nicotine in sustained attention. This has been another aspect of our research with interesting results. Presently, we are testing novel nicotinic compounds for improving pharmacologically-impaired sustained attention.

Teaching: I love to teach and interact with students. Since arriving at Duke in 1999, I have been team-teaching the popular alcohol course (Psych 206-01R; Alcohol: Brain, Society and Individual). I also enjoy mentoring undergrad students who are interested in science and enjoy working in the lab with cute little creatures!.

Community: I am a member of the Board of Directors of Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA), a self-supported therapeutic community in Durham. I also give seminars and workshops on addiction around the country.


Jed Eugene Rose

Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

We are pursuing three main lines of research:

1) Brain imaging of the effects of nicotine and cigarette smoking: We have used Positron Emission Tomography (PET) methods to analyze regional cerebral blood flow responses to nicotine, administered either intravenously or inhaled in cigarettes. Our aim is to identify brain substrates mediating the addictive properties of nicotine. Preliminary results have shown alterations in the pattern of regional cerebral blood flow, involving frontal cortex, amygdala and other brain regions. We will continue to delineate the similarities and differences between the effects of nicotine and other drugs on regional brain activity, and plan to monitor the changes in response to nicotine after smoking cessation with nicotine antagonist treatment.

2) Analysis of airway sensory components of smoking reinforcement: We have continued the study the role of sensorimotor aspects of cigarette smoking in relieving craving for cigarettes and regulating smoke intake. We completed a study of the effects of intravenous nicotine presented alone or in combination with the sensorimotor aspects of smoking using de-nicotinized cigarette smoke. Craving for cigarettes was relieved more effectively by the de-nicotinized smoke than by the intravenous nicotine. Current studies underway at the Clinical Research Unit will further investigate the subjective effects of i.v. nicotine and de-nicotinized cigarette smoke, using a wider range of nicotine doses. Possible predictors of clinical outcome following nicotine skin patch treatment will be identified based on acute responses to the pharmacologic effects of nicotine in the laboratory.

We are also continuing to further the clinical application of these findings by developing substitutes that provide the airways sensory effects of smoking (e.g. citric acid aerosol).

3) Agonist/antagonist combination treatment for drug dependence: In a double blind smoking cessation trial using mecamylamine, a nicotinic antagonist, in combination with nicotine skin patches, we found that addition of the antagonist substantially increases smoking abstinence throughout the 1 year follow-up. Two additional studies that we conducted support the view that pre-treatment with mecamylamine prior to smoking cessation may be a critical factor in achieving high success rates. By blocking reinforcing effects of nicotine, smoking behavior may be partially extinguished, thereby facilitating subsequent smoking cessation. We recently completed a Phase II FDA trial evaluating a transdermal patch delivering nicotine and mecamylamine, which replicated our previous results. It is anticipated that an NDA pertaining to the new skin patch will be submitted in 1997. Continuing studies in our program will determine the optimal dose and duration of treatment. We also have initiated studies to extend this approach to the treatment of other drug dependencies, including cocaine.

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