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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003 Aug;76(1):179-86.

Nicotine and ethanol enhancements of acoustic startle reflex are mediated in part by dopamine in C57BL/6J mice.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Weiss Hall, Temple University, 1701 N 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA.


Nicotine has been shown to have additive as well as antagonistic effects on behavior stimulated by ethanol. Here, we examine the effects of nicotine, ethanol, and the coadministration of each drug on acoustic startle responding in C57BL/6J mice. Mice were tested at a range of decibel levels (80-115 dB, 5 dB increments), with administration of 0.031, 0.062, 0.125, and 0.25 mg/kg nicotine or 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 g/kg ethanol. Nicotine and ethanol each caused an increase in the acoustic startle response at the highest and lowest doses tested, respectively. Mecamylamine, a nicotinic receptor antagonist, administered in combination with nicotine or ethanol attenuated these increases in acoustic startle responding. Nicotine and ethanol, administered together, did not produce greater enhancement of startle than when administered alone. Haloperidol (1 mg/kg) was administered in combination with nicotine or ethanol to investigate if dopamine modulated nicotine or ethanol enhancement of acoustic startle. It was found that the increase in acoustic startle responses observed with ethanol or nicotine was attenuated by haloperidol. Thus, ethanol or nicotine may enhance the acoustic startle reflex through a common dopaminergic mechanism.

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