Targeting Nicotine Receptors to Treat Cognitive Impairments in Schizophrenia

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Smoking is a common problem for patients with schizophrenia. The increased tendency of patients diagnosed with this disorder is to not only smoke, but to do so more heavily than the general public. This raises the possibility that nicotine may be acting as a treatment for some symptoms of schizophrenia.

Nicotine acts through two general classes of brain receptors, those with high and low affinity for nicotine. The low affinity class of nicotinic receptors contains the alpha-7 subunit, which is present in reduced numbers in people with schizophrenia.

Two papers published in the January 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry suggest that drugs that stimulate these alpha-7 subunit-containing nicotinic receptors might enhance cortical function and treat cognitive impairments associated with schizophrenia.

In their study of healthy monkeys, Graham Williams and colleagues at Yale University and AstraZeneca found that very low doses of AZD0328, a novel drug that acts as an alpha-7 agonist, produced both acute and persistent improvements in their performance on a spatial working memory task……

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Elsevier, via AlphaGalileo.

Journal References:
1. Jason R. Tregellas, Jody Tanabe, Donald C. Rojas, Shireen Shatti, Ann Olincy, Lynn Johnson, Laura F. Martin, Ferenc Soti, William R. Kem, Sherry Leonard. Effects of an Alpha 7-Nicotinic Agonist on Default Network Activity in Schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry, 2011; 69 (1): 7 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.07.004
2. Stacy A. Castner et al. Immediate and Sustained Improvements in Working Memory After Selective Stimulation of α7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors. Biological Psychiatry, (in press)

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110111084220.htm

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