Gender Specific Mechanisms for Understanding Smoking Addiction
Irina Esterlis, Ph.D.,Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Nicotine replacement therapies - the most commonly used treatments for quitting smoking - are not as effective for women as for men. Thus, to improve cessation therapies for women, there is a critical need to investigate whether the neurobiology of smoking in women is different from that targeted by the therapies that affect nicotine receptors in the brain. By using PET scanning (a technology that produces visual images of cellular and molecular level functioning), Dr. Esterlis is taking the first steps in investigating whether treatments targeting brain receptors - called metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR5) - may be a better option for helping women quit smoking. She believes glutamate receptors are excellent candidates because evidence from animal studies suggests gender differences in the role of mGluR5 in nicotine addiction, and glutamate, a key chemical messenger in brain cells, has been shown to be compromised in mood disorders such as depression, one of the reasons that women smoke or relapse to smoking after quitting.
This study is funded in conjunction with the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center.