The interaction between nicotine and alcohol may not only influence a person's ability to learn, it could also have an implication in the treatment of these forms of abuse.
The study was conducted by researchers Thomas J. Gould and Danielle Gulick from Temple University.
As a part of their attempt to examine the drugs' interactive effects on learning, the researchers looked at the ability to learn and process contextual information, which is important for multiple reasons.
According to Gould, contextual learning taps into the part of the brain that is involved in declarative memory processes that define who we are, such as memories of family, wedding days, or graduating from school. This type of learning involves an area of the brain called the hippocampus, an area that is involved in strengthening short-term memories, and putting them into long-term memory storage, thus making those memories the ones that define who we are. Using an animal model, Gould and Gulick examined the effects of alcohol and nicotine on learning to determine what happens as the drugs are combined at different doses and different stages of administration.
"Our study showed that initially nicotine in a dose-dependent manner reverses alcohol-induced deficits in learning, but tolerance develops for this effect of nicotine with continued administration," Gould said.
The study was presented on Nov. 6 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego and will be published in the peer-reviewed journal, Psychopharmacology. It was funded by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).