This preliminary study describes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data on the effects of sub-chronic nicotine administration in rats. Nicotine 0.4 mg/kg s.c. free base was given once a day for 4 days to Wistar adult male rats. On day 5, anaesthetized subjects were observed using an MRI tomography system. Regional cerebral blood volume (rCBV) and transversal relaxation time (T2) MRI parameters were measured. Nicotine treatment increased T2 values, with a significant effect in the cingulate cortex. A trend to increase was also observed in the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. Similarly, the effect of nicotine on rCBV was a significant increase in values compared to saline treatment. Post hoc analysis showed a significant effect of nicotine in the prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, mediodorsal thalamus and lateral posterior thalamus. This study showed for the first time that sub-chronic nicotine administration can induce changes in MRI pattern which are (i) similar to human MRI studies, and (ii) common to those described for markers of neuronal metabolic activation in corticolimbic brain regions known to be involved in nicotine dependence.
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