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J Psychopharmacol. 2004 Dec;18(4):457-74.

Nicotinic receptor mechanisms and cognition in normal states and neuropsychiatric disorders.

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  • 1Program for Research in Smokers with Mental Illness, Division of Substance Abuse, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.


Cigarette smoking rates in the American population are approximately 23%, whereas rates of smoking in clinical and population studies of individuals with neuropsychiatric disorders are typically two- to four-fold higher. Studies conducted in a variety of neuropsychiatric populations [e.g. attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia] have collectively suggested that nicotine may be efficacious in remediating selected cognitive deficits associated with these disorders, thus providing a framework for understanding the specific vulnerability of these patients to smoking initiation and maintenance. However, the specific gain in cognitive performance produced by nicotine administration in healthy subjects with normal cognitive function is less clear. This article reviews our current understanding of central nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChRs) systems in normal and neuropsychiatric disease states and, specifically, their role with respect to cognitive dysfunction and clinical symptoms in several specific neuropsychiatric populations, including ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Tourette's Disorder, schizophrenia and affective disorders. The potential benefits of nicotinic agents for therapeutic use in neuropsychiatric disorders is discussed, as well as directions for further research in this area.

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