Menthol enhances nicotine-induced locomotor sensitization and in vivo functional connectivity in adolescence

Matthew F. Thompson, Guillaume L. Poirier, Martha I. Dávila-García, Wei Huang, Kelly Tam, Maxwell Robidoux, Michelle L. Dubuke, Scott A. Shaffer, Luis Colon-Perez, Marcelo Febo, Joseph R. DiFranza, Jean A. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Mentholated cigarettes capture a quarter of the US market, and are disproportionately smoked by adolescents. Menthol allosterically modulates nicotinic acetylcholine receptor function, but its effects on the brain and nicotine addiction are unclear. To determine if menthol is psychoactive, we assessed locomotor sensitization and brain functional connectivity. Adolescent male Sprague Dawley rats were administered nicotine (0.4 mg/kg) daily with or without menthol (0.05 mg/kg or 5.38 mg/kg) for nine days. Following each injection, distance traveled in an open field was recorded. One day after the sensitization experiment, functional connectivity was assessed in awake animals before and after drug administration using magnetic resonance imaging. Menthol (5.38 mg/kg) augmented nicotine-induced locomotor sensitization. Functional connectivity was compared in animals that had received nicotine with or without the 5.38 mg/kg dosage of menthol. Twenty-four hours into withdrawal after the last drug administration, increased functional connectivity was observed for ventral tegmental area and retrosplenial cortex with nicotine+menthol compared to nicotine-only exposure. Upon drug re-administration, the nicotine-only, but not the menthol groups, exhibited altered functional connectivity of the dorsal striatum with the amygdala. Menthol, when administered with nicotine, showed evidence of psychoactive properties by affecting brain activity and behavior compared to nicotine administration alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-343
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • adolescence
  • menthol
  • nicotine
  • Smoking
  • tobacco


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