Are we about to discover, as the Woody Allen character did in Sleeper, that cigarettes are good for us? Not quite, but the nicotine in them might be.
Nicotine acts on the acetylcholine receptors in the brain, stimulating and regulating the release of a slew of brain chemicals, including seratonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Not surprisingly, the first scientific work that identified these chemicals and how they affect the body came out of nicotine research -- much of it performed by tobacco companies.More proof that science is never "settled."
Now drugs derived from nicotine and the research on nicotine receptors are in clinical trials for everything from helping to heal wounds, to depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, anger management and anxiety.
"Nicotine is highly stigmatized -- and for good reason, because the delivery systemis so deadly," says Don deBethizy, CEO of Targacept. "But the drug itself and the research generated by studying its effects on the brain both show great promise for helping us improve our physical and mental health."--Wired