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Brain Sci. 2015, 5(3), 258-274; doi:10.3390/brainsci5030258

Early Life Stress, Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors and Alcohol Use Disorders

Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Translational Research Institute, Queensland University of Technology, 37 Kent St, Woolloongabba, Queensland 4102, Australia
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marcelo Febo
Received: 15 April 2015 / Revised: 11 June 2015 / Accepted: 18 June 2015 / Published: 30 June 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Addiction and Neuroadaptation)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [356 KB, uploaded 30 June 2015]   |  

Abstract

Stress is a major driving force in alcohol use disorders (AUDs). It influences how much one consumes, craving intensity and whether an abstinent individual will return to harmful alcohol consumption. We are most vulnerable to the effects of stress during early development, and exposure to multiple traumatic early life events dramatically increases the risk for AUDs. However, not everyone exposed to early life stress will develop an AUD. The mechanisms determining whether an individual’s brain adapts and becomes resilient to the effects of stress or succumbs and is unable to cope with stress remain elusive. Emerging evidence suggests that neuroplastic changes in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) following early life stress underlie the development of AUDs. This review discusses the impact of early life stress on NAc structure and function, how these changes affect cholinergic signaling within the mesolimbic reward pathway and the role nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) play in this process. Understanding the neural pathways and mechanism determining stress resilience or susceptibility will improve our ability to identify individuals susceptible to developing AUDs, formulate cognitive interventions to prevent AUDs in susceptible individuals and to elucidate and enhance potential therapeutic targets, such as the nAChRs, for those struggling to overcome an AUD. View Full-Text
Keywords: Early life stress; alcohol; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; stress resilience; nucleus accumbens; cholinergic; mesolimbic; dopamine; GABA Early life stress; alcohol; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; stress resilience; nucleus accumbens; cholinergic; mesolimbic; dopamine; GABA
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Holgate, J.Y.; Bartlett, S.E. Early Life Stress, Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors and Alcohol Use Disorders. Brain Sci. 2015, 5, 258-274.

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