A brain pathway that triggers anxiety during nicotine withdrawal has been identified in a mouse study published this week in Nature Communications. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are one of the major factors contributing to smoking relapse and this research points to a new therapeutic target to facilitate smoking cessation.
Prior to this study, most animal models of nicotine dependence have focused on the traditional addiction pathway in the brain. More recently, the stress pathways in the brain have garnered attention for their possible role in withdrawal.
Andrew Tapper and colleagues home in on one of the less-studied stress pathways and show that they can trigger or prevent nicotine-withdrawal induced anxiety in mice by turning the pathway on or off. By identifying the specific molecules that activate this pathway in nicotine-dependent mice, their study suggests a novel therapeutic target to prevent anxiety during nicotine withdrawal.