Nicotine, Neural Plasticity, and Nicotine’s Therapeutic Potential

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This review is a brief summary of the effects of nicotine on neural plasticity and behavior, with a focus on the preclinical literature and the effects of nicotine on neurotrophic factors. Focus areas include underlying mechanisms of nicotine addiction and the therapeutic potential for nicotine and nicotinic receptor agonists in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, as well as cutting across these different areas of research with a brief review of the antiinflammatory effects of nicotine. It is clear that agonists at nicotinic receptors have therapeutic potential, but this should be weighed in the context of the effects of nicotine across the brain and its enhancement of neurotrophic factors. Although nicotine may have neuroprotective properties, it is important to keep in mind that these same effects underlie its addictive characteristics.