Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs of abuse. Tobacco smoking is a major cause of many health problems, and is the first preventable cause of death worldwide. Several findings show that nicotine exerts significant aversive as well as the well-known rewarding motivational effects. Less certain is the anatomical substrate that mediates or enables nicotine aversion. Here, we show that acute nicotine induces anxiogenic-like effects in rats at the doses investigated (0.1, 0.5, and 1.0 mg/kg, i.p.), as measured by the hole-board apparatus and manifested in behaviors such as decreased rearing and head-dipping and increased grooming. No changes in locomotor behavior were observed at any of the nicotine doses given. T-pattern analysis of the behavioral outcomes revealed a drastic reduction and disruption of complex behavioral patterns induced by all three nicotine doses, with the maximum effect for 1 mg/kg. Lesion of the lateral habenula (LHb) induced hyperlocomotion and, strikingly, reversed the nicotine-induced anxiety obtained at 1 mg/kg to an anxiolytic-like effect, as shown by T-pattern analysis. We suggest that the LHb is critically involved in emotional behavior states and in nicotine-induced anxiety, most likely through modulation of monoaminergic nuclei.
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience