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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2005;7(3):207-16.

The possible contribution of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in depression.

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Department of Neuroscience, Medical Faculty, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland.


Although tobacco use and smoking were introduced long ago, it was only recently that the nicotine contained in the tobacco leaves was recognized as an addictive substance acting on the central nervous system (CNS). However, even prior to this recognition, several studies have reported an association between smoking and psychiatric disorders. One of the many observations was that smoking cessation is accompanied by a marked increase in the probability of major depression. In parallel with the discovery of the neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and their extensive expression in the CNS, this association sheds new light on the influence of cholinergic transmission in depression. In this article, we examine the various modes of action of nicotine in the CNS and discuss the mechanisms by which this alkaloid can prevent or precipitate mood disorders, and the possibility of discovering new therapeutic avenues for the treatment of depression.

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