Background: Nicotine exposure affects the hippocampus through activation of hippocampal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), which are present throughout excitatory and inhibitory hippocampal circuitry. The role of cholinergic functioning in the hippocampus varies across developmental stages so that nicotine exposure differentially affects this region depending upon timing of exposure, producing developmentally distinct changes in structure, function, and behavior. Methods: We synthesize findings across literature in this area to comprehensively review current understanding of the unique effects of nicotine exposure on the hippocampus throughout the lifespan with a focus on hippocampal morphology, cholinergic functioning, and hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. Conclusions: Chronic and acute nicotine exposure differentially affect hippocampus structure, functioning, and related learning and memory in the perinatal period, adolescence, and aging. Age-related differences in sensitivity to nicotine exposure should be considered in the research of nicotine addiction and the development of nicotine addiction treatments.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Pharmacology (medical)