This review focuses on nicotine comorbidity in schizophrenia, and the insight into this problem provided by rodent models of schizophrenia. A particular focus is on age differences in the response to nicotine, and how this relates to the development of the disease and difficulties in treatment. Schizophrenia is a particularly difficult disease to model in rodents due to the fact that it has a plethora of symptoms ranging from paranoia and delusions of grandeur to anhedonia and negative affect. The basis of these symptoms is believed to be due to neurochemical abnormalities and neuropathology in the brain, which most models have attempted to emulate. A brief review of findings regarding nicotine use and abuse in schizophrenics is presented, with findings using rodent models that have been able to provide insight into the mechanisms of addiction. A common clinical approach to the treatment of nicotine addiction in the schizophrenic population has been that these drugs are used for self-medication purposes, and it is clear that self-medication may actually be directed at several symptoms, including cognitive impairment and anhedonia. Finally, our laboratory has reported across a series of studies that neonatal treatment with the dopamine D2/D3 receptor agonist quinpirole results in long-term increases in dopamine-like receptor sensitivity, consistent with data reporting increases in dopamine D2 receptor function in schizophrenia. Across these studies, we have reported several behavioral, neurochemical, and genetic consistencies with the disease, and present a hypothesis for what we believe to be the basis of psychostimulant addiction in schizophrenia.

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