Translational human studies
How do nicotinic acetylcholine receptors influence behavioral building blocks that regulate the likelihood of aggressive behaviors?
The overall goal of our basic neurobiological research is to improve treatments for patients. Translational research therefore represents an important aspect of our research mission. Building upon our studies of aggressive behavior in mouse models, we will test whether nicotine, a drug that activates receptors called nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain, improves the ability to make or withhold responses to faces that are either emotionally neutral or emotionally negative in a human clinical trial. This study will also test whether the drug affects brain activity while making or withholding responses using electroencephalography. Previous studies in people with schizophrenia have shown that more errors in response to negative emotional cues are related to greater likelihood of impulsive aggressive behavior. Therefore, the aim of this study is to determine whether nicotine might be a new strategy to reduce aggressive behavior. We would like to enroll about 30 participants with schizophrenia and 30 healthy controls in this study at Vanderbilt.