A common green apple vape flavor enhances nicotine reward and is also rewarding itself, according to research in mice recently published in eNeuro.
Vaping entices adolescents into nicotine use with fun flavors like green apple and cotton candy. Nicotine-free flavored vapes have also gained popularity. But of the over 7000 available flavor chemicals, only a handful have been studied. With or without nicotine, flavored vapes pose potential risks for the brain, including addiction.
To continue unravelling these risks, Cooper et al. gave mice either nicotine, the green apple flavorant farnesene, or both in one chamber and a saline solution in another. Farnesene was rewarding by itself, as mice chose the farnesene chamber over the saline chamber. But farnesene also enhanced reward when combined with nicotine.
The research team next measured how farnesene changed nicotine receptor expression and neuron activation. Alone, farnesene partially activated nicotinic receptors, meaning it may increase nicotine's receptor activation when both substances are present. Farnesene also increased the proportion of high- to low-sensitivity receptors. A greater proportion of high-sensitivity receptors increases the effects of a standard nicotine dose, which could heighten reward and drug-seeking behavior. Despite their marketing, vape flavors are not risk-free and may exacerbate the effects of nicotine.
Manuscript title: Green Apple E-Cigarette Flavorant Farnesene Triggers Reward-Related Behavior by Promoting High-Sensitivity nAChRs in the Ventral Tegmental Area
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eNeuro is an online, open-access journal published by the Society for Neuroscience. Established in 2014, eNeuro publishes a wide variety of content, including research articles, short reports, reviews, commentaries and opinions.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.