In adult rats (4-9 months), chronic nicotine infusion increases the basal level of acetylcholine (ACh) release in the cerebral cortex and enhances responses of cortical ACh release and cortical vasodilation elicited by nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) stimulation. In the present study, we examined whether these effects of nicotine are detected in aged rats. Aged rats (27-30 months) received sustained subcutaneous nicotine (100 μg/kg/h) or saline for 14 days. Under urethane anesthesia, ACh release and regional blood flow in the parietal cortex were measured. The basal level of ACh release in the cerebral cortex was not changed by chronic nicotine. In addition, the magnitudes of ACh release and vasodilation by NBM stimulation were similar between the saline-treated and nicotine-treated groups. The lack of an effect of chronic nicotine in aged rats may be due to a decrease in nicotinic receptors in the cerebral cortex during aging (Nordberg et al., J Neurosci Res 31:103-111, 1992).
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