, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 369-374

Nicotine increases sensory gating measured as inhibition of the acoustic startle reflex in rats

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Chronic nicotine administration has been reported to increase acoustic startle response (ASR) amplitude in rats, which has been offered as evidence that some dosages of nicotine can enhance attention. The present experiments examined effects of acutely administered nicotine on amplitude and pre-pulse inhibition (PPI) of acoustic startle in rats. PPI, the decrease in ASR amplitude by a stimulus preceding the startle-eliciting event, reflects pre-attentive neural processes underlying sensory gating. Nicotine had a biphasic dose effect on startle amplitude, with increases at lower dosages (0.01 mg/kg) and decreases at higher dosages (0.5–5.0 mg/kg SC). Lower dosages of nicotine (0.001–0.01 mg/kg) increased PPI and the increase at 0.001 mg/kg occurred independently of changes in ASR amplitude. These results confirm that increases in PPI are not dependent upon changes in ASR amplitude. Results are consistent with nicotine's enhancements of performance on cognitive tasks in humans and are the first reported use of the PPI paradigm to model such effects. These findings indicate that ASR paradigms are useful to study effects of nicotine.

This work was supported by USUHS protocol CO 7223. The views contained herein are the private ones of the authors and do not reflect those of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Department of Defense, or the Food and Drug Administration