Elsevier Logo Since most schizophrenics tend to smoke, it is assumed that nicotine acts as a treatment for some symptoms of the disorder. The low affinity class of nicotinic receptors probably contains the alpha-7 subunit, which is present in declined numbers among those suffering from schizophrenia. A groundbreaking research claims that medications stimulating alpha-7 subunit-containing nicotinic receptors can improve cortical function and treat cognitive impairments linked with schizophrenia.

While conducting the research on healthy monkeys, very low doses of AZD0328 apparently generated acute and persistent improvements in performance on a spatial working memory task. AZD0328 is a unique drug that may act as an alpha-7 agonist. Even the effect of DMXB-A, a novel alpha-7 partial agonist, on the brain’s ‘default network’ in schizophrenics was thoroughly examined.

Graham Williams, enlightened, “Our work demonstrates that that the neuronal nicotinic alpha-7 receptor plays a critical role in the core cognitive function of working memory, which is a key indicator of outcome in patients with schizophrenia. The function of the alpha-7 receptor may account for the ability of a partial agonist to induce long-term beneficial changes for high-order cognition at such low doses.”

Function of the default network appears as a leading contributor to the intrinsic neuronal activity and accounts for 60-80 percent of the brain’s energy use. This function of the default network seems to be different in individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. DMXB-A was apparently capable of changing default network activity in schizophrenics. Scientists presume that the pattern with which it was altered is consistent in improving function of the network. Neuronal differences were supposedly linked with the genotype of the alpha-7 nicotinic receptor and also drug-related improvements in symptoms.

The research is published in the January issue of Biological Psychiatry.