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J Neurosci. 2002 Oct 1;22(19):8653-60.

Lesions of the tegmental pedunculopontine nucleus block the rewarding effects and reveal the aversive effects of nicotine in the ventral tegmental area.

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  • 1Neurobiology Research Group, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 1A8.


Nicotine, the primary psychoactive component of tobacco smoke, is known to possess potent rewarding and aversive stimulus properties. The mammalian ventral tegmental area (VTA) is involved importantly in the mediation of the motivational effects of nicotine. However, the neural outputs from the VTA that may be involved in the transmission of the rewarding and aversive motivational effects of nicotine are not well understood. We report that bilateral lesions of the tegmental pedunculopontine nucleus (TPP) double dissociate the rewarding and aversive motivational effects of nicotine. Using a conditioned place preference paradigm, bilateral TPP lesions blocked a nicotine reward signal and revealed the aversive motivational properties of intra-VTA nicotine. These same TPP lesions did not block an aversive nicotine signal, as measured in a conditioned taste aversion paradigm. TPP lesions also produce an attenuation in nicotine-induced locomotor activity; however, neither learning nor performance deficits can account for these observed effects, because TPP-lesioned animals still showed clear aversive nicotine conditioning in two separate behavioral paradigms. Our results suggest that the rewarding effects of nicotine in the VTA are dependent on a nondopaminergic, descending reward pathway to the brainstem TPP.

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