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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Nicotine stimulates dendritic arborization in motor cortex and improves concurrent motor skill but impairs subsequent motor learning.

The effect of the premature commitment of neurons to exuberant growth by nicotine on concurrent and subsequent learning is unknown and was the focus of the present study. Animals were trained on a tray reaching for food task (where lots of pieces of chicken feed were available) for 3 weeks before they received two daily injections of nicotine (0.3 mg/kg) or 0.9% saline for 12 days. Measures of tray-reaching performance were obtained before the administration of nicotine and every other week for a total of 7 weeks. Starting on week 8, animals were given a novel motor skill problem that required them to learn to use a forepaw to reach through a slot in a cage for single food pellets located on an external shelf. Pyramidal cells in the forelimb area of both hemispheres were then examined for dendritic length and branching using a Golgi-Cox procedure. Animals treated with saline displayed excellent performance in both reaching tasks and an increase in neuronal branching in Layer V pyramidal cells in the motor cortex contralateral to the reaching paw. In contrast, animals treated with nicotine showed bilateral increases in neuronal branching. Behavioral results showed that nicotine improved forelimb use in the concurrently administered tray-reaching task, but severely degraded quantitative and qualitative scores of skilled forelimb use in the subsequently administered single-pellet reaching task. The results suggest that plasticity coincidence with skilled training is essential to skilled motor learning, but this expenditure can impair subsequent learning.[1]


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