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Front Synaptic Neurosci. 2012 Aug 2;4:3. doi: 10.3389/fnsyn.2012.00003. eCollection 2012.

Nicotine exposure during adolescence alters the rules for prefrontal cortical synaptic plasticity during adulthood.

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  • 1Department of Integrative Neurophysiology, CNCR, Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands.


The majority of adolescents report to have smoked a cigarette at least once. Adolescence is a critical period of brain development during which maturation of areas involved in cognitive functioning, such as the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), is still ongoing. Tobacco smoking during this age may compromise the normal course of prefrontal development and lead to cognitive impairments in later life. In addition, adolescent smokers suffer from attention deficits, which progress with the years of smoking. Recent studies in rodents reveal the molecular changes induced by adolescent nicotine exposure that alter the functioning of synapses in the PFC and underlie the lasting effects on cognitive function. In particular, the expression and function of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) are changed and this has an impact on short- and long-term plasticity of glutamatergic synapses in the PFC and ultimately on the attention performance. Here, we review and discuss these recent findings.


STDP; adolescence; cognitive behavior; mGluR; nAChR; nicotine; prefrontal cortex

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