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Effects of Stress and Nicotine on Cognitive Function in Male and Female Rats

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Technical Report

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Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Bethesda United States

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Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of death and illness in the U.S., yet 40 million Americans continue to smoke. The present experiment wasdesigned to determine whether nicotine addictive substance in cigarettes alters cognitive effects of stress and to determine if females and males are affected differently. The present experiment used a well-established rat model to examine effects of nicotine or saline administration and a Warrior Stress Paradigm WSP. The present experiment used 32 male and 32 female Sprague-Dawley rats. Both sexes were used because it is important to study the difference in responses. The dependent variables were acoustic startle reflex ASR without and with pre-pulse stimuli and pre-pulse inhibition PPI to measure startle responses, information processing, and sensory gating. The findings reveal several effects of stress and nicotine that differ in females and males. Males that received nicotine and stress had lower startle responses than males that received saline, F1,13 4.991, p.044, 2 .277. There was a trend that when non-stressed males received nicotine, they had greater startle responses than non-stressed males that received saline, F1,134.459, p.055, partial 2.255. Stressed females that received saline had sensory gating abilities, while non-stressed females did not, F1,275.229, p.030, 2.162. If the present findings with rats extrapolate to the human condition, then nicotine may have more cognitive enhancing effects for women than men. If this prediction is true, then adjusting smoking cessation strategies based on gender and life situations e.g., amounts and types of stress may be particularly valuable.

Subject Categories:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Psychology

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