Higher impulsivity is thought to be a risk factor for drug addiction, criminal involvement, and suicide. Excessive levels of impulsivity are often observed in several psychiatric disorders including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia. Previous studies have demonstrated that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are involved in impulsive behavior. Here, we introduce recent advances in this field and describe the role of the following nAChR-related brain mechanisms in modulating impulsive behavior: dopamine release in the ventral striatum; α4β2 nAChRs in the infralimbic cortex, which is a ventral part of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC); and dopamine release in the mPFC. We also suggest several potential therapeutic drugs to address these mechanisms in impulsivity-related disorders and explore future directions to further elucidate the roles of central nAChRs in impulsive behavior.
The Japanese Pharmacological Society 2012