The mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system projects from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to structures associated with the limbic system, primarily the nucleus accumbens (NAc). This system has been implicated in the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse. Many drugs of abuse act in the VTA, the NAc, or both. Dopamine neurons in the VTA that project to the NAc, and the GABA neurons that inhibit DA neurons locally in the VTA or project to the NAc, play an important role in mediating addiction to various drugs of abuse, in particular alcohol. There is a growing body of evidence of co-dependence of nicotine and ethanol drug abuse. Given this evidence, it is possible that both ethanol and nicotine target similar receptors in the NAc. The GABA-A and GABA-B receptors have also been implicated in the modulation of ethanol's reinforcing properties (Anstrom, Cromwell, Markowski, & Woodward, 2003; Besheer, Lepoutre, & Hodge, 2004; Colombo et al., 2000; Moore & Boehm, 2009; Stromberg, 2004; Walker & Koob, 2007). Thus, there is a growing literature suggesting that GABA receptors are implicated in ethanol reward. In these studies, we evaluated the possibility of co-dependence of nicotine and ethanol by activity on a similar receptor in the NAc. In addition, we evaluated the role of GABA modulation of DA release, in particular GABA-A receptors and GABA-B receptors, in modulating DA release in the NAc with acute ethanol exposure. The rationale for this study was predicated on the belief that advancement in the understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying the recreational use and abuse potential of alcohol will pave the way for more effective treatment strategies that could reverse alcohol dependence and co-dependence and save lives and resources throughout the world.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Physiology and Developmental Biology



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dopamine release, ethanol, GABA, nicotine, nucleus accumbens, voltammetry