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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Working memory- and anxiety-related behavioral effects of repeated nicotine as a stressor: the role of cannabinoid receptors

Tamaki Hayase

Author affiliations

Department of Legal Medicine, Kyoto University, Yoshidakonoe-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan

Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2013, 14:20  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-20

Published: 9 February 2013



Like emotional symptoms such as anxiety, modulations in working memory are among the frequently-reported but controversial psychiatric symptoms associated with nicotine (NC) administration. In the present study, repeated NC-induced modulations in working memory, along with concurrently-observed anxiety-related behavioral alterations, were investigated in mice, and compared with the effects of a typical cognition-impairing stressor, immobilization stress (IM). Furthermore, considering the structural and functional contributions of brain cannabinoid (CB) receptors in NC-induced psychiatric symptoms including emotional symptoms, the interactive effects of brain CB receptor ligands (CB ligands) and NC and/or IM on the working memory- and anxiety-related behaviors were examined.


Statistically significant working memory impairment-like behavioral alterations in the Y-maze test and anxiety-like behavioral alterations in the elevated plus-maze (EPM) test were observed in the groups of mice treated with 0.8 mg/kg NC (subcutaneous (s.c.) 0.8 mg/kg treatment, 4 days) and/or IM (10 min treatment, 4 days). In the group of mice treated with NC plus IM (NC-IM group), an enhancement of the behavioral alterations was observed. Among the CB type 1 (CB1) antagonist AM 251 (AM), the non-selective CB agonist CP 55,940 (CP), and the CB1 partial agonist/antagonist virodhamine (VD), significant recovering effects were provided by AM (0.2-2.5 mg/kg) and VD (5 mg/kg) against the working memory impairment-like behaviors, whereas significant anxiolytic-like effects (recoveries from both attenuated percentage of entries into open arms and attenuated percentage of time spent on open arms) were provided by VD (1–10 mg/kg) and CP (2 mg/kg) against the anxiety-like behaviors.


Although working memory impairment- and anxiety-like behavioral alterations were commonly induced in the NC, IM, and NC-IM groups and the therapeutic involvement of CB receptors was shown, there were discrepancies in the types of effective CB ligands between the working memory- and anxiety-related behaviors. The differential involvements of CB receptor subtypes and indirectly activated neurotransmitter systems may contribute to these discrepancies.

Nicotine; Immobilization stress; Working memory; Anxiety; Cannabinoid; AM 251; CP 55,940; virodhamine