Document Type

Honors Paper

Publication Date

2013

Abstract

Within the general public, nicotine is commonly thought of as a harmful molecule due to its role in tobacco addiction. However, nicotinic stimulation of the cholinergic system has also been shown to enhance cognitive functioning. This enhancement is thought to be caused by an increase in the release of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (ACh), which is responsible for mediating a variety of cognitive processes, such as REM sleep and memory formation. Recent research by Melichercik and colleagues shows that systemic nicotine administration enhances memory acquisition for both object location and object recognition memory in rats, as assessed by a modified version of the novel object recognition test (NOR). Using a standard NOR test we were able to reproduce their behavioral results: systemic nicotine administration enhances object recognition memory acquisition. Furthermore, we show for the first time that these behavioral results can be correlated with an increase in neuronal activation in the medial septum using immunohistochemical techniques. This research has implications for understanding the pathology that underlies neurodegenerative disorders with cholinergic involvement such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

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The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.