A single dose of nicotine, equivalent to what you’d find in a cigarette, suppresses estrogen production in women’s brains.
This is what researchers at Uppsala University wrote in a new press release published by the Scientific News Agency Eureka alert!.
– For the first time, we can see that nicotine turns off the mechanisms that drive estrogen production in women’s brains, says Associate Professor Erica Comasco.
She was responsible for the study, which was presented during the ECNP conference in Vienna. ECNP is a neurological research organization, and up to 5,000 participants are meeting this week in Vienna.
Ten healthy women participated in the study.
The women received a single dose of nicotine in the nose, while at the same time injected with a radioactive tracer attached to a special molecule.
The molecule can bind to the enzyme aromatase, also called estrogen synthase, which is the enzyme responsible for producing estrogen.
With the help of MRI scans and so-called positron emission tomography (PET) scans, which can show activity in cells and tissues, the researchers were able to work out how much of this enzyme the women had in their brains — and where.
After the women took this single dose of nicotine, the researchers were able to detect that their brains had less aromatase.
– We were surprised to see that this effect was visible even with a single dose of nicotine, equivalent to one cigarette. She says it shows how smoking affects women’s brains.
Comasco stresses that this is quite a newly discovered effect, and that the research is still at an early stage.
– We’re still not sure what kind of behavioral or cognitive consequences of this, we only know that nicotine affects this part of the brain.
However, she points out, the affected part of the brain is a center for addictive substances – such as nicotine.
It’s hard to quit smoking
In our brain, there is an area called the thalamus, which is involved in our behavioral and emotional reactions.
according to Major medical encyclopedias The front part of the brainstem, which serves as a kind of control station that determines which impulses must be processed and passed to the cerebral cortex.
This is where researchers have now seen a change.
The researchers behind the study believe the findings could explain many of the differences between women smokers, including why women find it more difficult to quit than men.
It’s not new that women and men react differently to nicotine.
Women appear to be more resistant to quit drugs, have more relapses when they quit and are more likely to smoke genetically. They are also more likely to develop diseases associated with smoking, such as lung cancer and heart attacks, Comasco says.
– Significant impact
The biological reasons behind these differences are unknown.
The result leads us to believe that the effect of nicotine on estrogen production has a significant impact on the brain, but perhaps also on other functions – such as the reproductive system. We don’t know that yet, Comasco says.
The researchers will now investigate whether the effect of nicotine on the hormonal system is involved in any of these interactions.
We looked for a relatively small group of women, and we need a larger group to confirm our findings, says Comasco:
– Anyway, our message is that nicotine affects the brain in many ways, including affecting the production of sex hormones such as estrogen.
Professor Win van den Brink, affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry and Addiction at the University of Amsterdam, believes this is an important preliminary finding:
This specific effect of nicotine on women was not previously known. But tobacco addiction is a complex condition, says the professor and explains in detail:
It is not likely that this specific effect explains all the differences in development, treatment, and outcome between smokers and males.
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