The Good and Bad Effects of Nicotine on the Brain and Body, from Neuroscience-Broscientist Andrew Huberman Ph.D. (Video/Podcast)

The Good and Bad Effects of Nicotine on the Brain and Body, from "Neuroscience-Broscientist" Andrew Huberman Ph.D. (Video/Podcast)

This is my summary of the 2hr long podcast/video Dr. Huberman did on nicotine. This summary is mostly for people wanting to use nicotine patches for medicinal reasons (short-term use). However, the summary might be helpful for anyone interested in this topic who just wants the highlights. And, this is not medical advice....Only a summary to help speed up research before speaking with your personal doctor.

Show notes with time stamps and links is pasted at the bottom for your convenience.

The "How to quit Smoking or Vaping section" has few details since addiction is not an issue with this kind of treatment.

  1. Smoking and Vaping are bad. Nicotine on its own can be "good."

  2. Nicotine, mixed with other substances included in vaping, makes it very addictive for the brain.

  3. Mental Focus is like an arrow: The direction of focus comes from the "Head of the arrow" (Acetylcholine), and the "shaft of the arrow" which is adrenaline/epinephrin gives power to the focus. 
    Nicotine boosts Acetylcholine and Epinephrin simultaneously.

  4. Taking any drug should be secondary to changes in behavior (13-minute daily meditation) and he mentions the option of taking the supplement Alpha GPC sometimes (not daily) to increase acetylcholine to improve focus. Paid advert for Alpha GPC??

  5. Nicotine increases focus, motivation, working memory, and cognitive capacity.

  6. When nicotinic receptors are activated, they can play an important role in helping "rewire" the brain. Maybe this is the reason that the nicotine patch is so effective with neurological damage (mTBI)?

  7. Nicotinic receptors are a natural part of human anatomy, it has nothing to do with nicotine consumption. These receptors existed long before people started consuming nicotine.

  8. (Minute 18:) Anecdote: Nobel Price Neuroscientist chewed nicotine gum constantly due to the neuroprotective benefits.

  9. Children, pregnant women, people with addictive tendencies, and people suffering from depression should avoid nicotine use. Nicotine is a powerful mood modulator. Withdrawal can lead to a big drop in mood.

  10. (Minute 20:) Nicotine is present in nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, etc), in trace amounts. It is there as a natural pesticide since it is deadly for bugs. However, the same danger does not exist for humans... We have a different anatomy!

  11. Once in the bloodstream, the nicotine goes to the brain and body and connects to the Nicotonic Acetylcholine receptors. Note: The other Acetylcholine receptors are called the muscarinic receptors.

  12. When Nicotine binds to different receptors = different things happen in the body.

    Brain (CNS), it binds to the alpha 4 beta 2 receptor. This increases metabolism and reduces appetite.

    Nicotine crosses the BBB (Blood Brain Barrier) and affects these circuits:
    * Mesolimbic (dopamine) reward (MLR) pathway. It causes the release of dopamine which increases alertness, focus, and motivation.

    * More chemicals are released which further increases dopamine (part of the reason for addiction to cigarettes and vaping).

    * Dopamine increase is coupled with a GABA decrease... So there is less GABA to counteract the dopamine.

    * It also increases the neuromodulator Acetylcholine. This becomes a neurochemical attention spotlight (focus) on the circuits being used for whatever task we are doing at the moment. The same circuits are being used, but focus/clarity is magnified.

    * Nicotine takes 2 to 15 minutes to get into the body. Then it has an effect for 20 to 40 minutes. Within an hour or two after absorption, it is gone...The exact pathway and how a large concentration ends up in the intestines will be another blog post.

    * Norepinephrine is released from the locus coeruleus... which connects to all parts of the brain. Nicotine and Acetylcholine molecules have had a huge effect on human evolution.

    * POMC neurons of the Hypothalamus have a profound effect on Appetite reduction. It even reduces the physical desire to chew! It also affects blood sugar and metabolism (2 to 5% change).

    : Nicotine gets to all parts of the body since it is fat-soluble. It can get into cells through the external lipid barrier (it can go everywhere). It increases the sympathetic autonomic system (alertness, readiness)... HR, BP, and some vasoconstriction (decrease in penile girth effect). A future blog post will investigate how nicotine might affect body temperature regulation ...
    Maybe this reduces the ability to adapt to heat...and sweat?? 

  13. (Minute-50:) Smoking and vaping over time (chronic use) damages endothelial tissue. But the use of the Nicotine patch over short periods of time does not affect the CV endothelial layer, but it can affect things like penile girth and blood flow to other tissues due to vasoconstriction.

    *Skeletal muscles are activated by acetylcholine from the Spinal cord, but with nicotine skeletal muscles are relaxed! A perfect mix for mental tasks.

    *Nicotine is a bad idea to improve physical performance!

    *Dipping/Snuff = a 50x increase in oral cancers.

    *Nicotine Patch can be beneficial if used in low doses, at irregular intervals and you are not still developing your brain.

    *Bad idea for 25 years old or under, a terrible idea for 15 or under! It can create an addiction to nicotine itself.

    *Cigarettes contain 4,000 to 7,000 toxins. And many (70?) potent carcinogens. Both Smoking and vaping cause endothelial and interstitial dysfunction.

    70% want to quit, but they can't because the neurological pathway is so powerful

    *Withdrawl is from craving for dopamine that drops below baseline.

    *Nicotine does not cause cancer or other health issues. The other issues come from the other elements in cigarettes.

    *Vaping is similar to "crack cocaine" since it delivers nicotine in a very quick way.

    *In vaping, Nicotine delivery is faster. So dopamine release is the MLR pathway is reinforced more than with other forms.

    *Vaping in young people is rewiring the brain to only get dopamine from vaping...fewer and fewer outside pleasures. That then is associated with depression and reduced satisfaction from other life pursuits.

  14. Quitting Smoking: The success rate of quitting is 5%. Then 65% of those relapse within 12 months!

    *Clinical Hypnosis
    Articles Predictors of smoking abstinence following a single-session restructuring intervention with self-hypnosis. 23% success rate See Reveri App below:

    *Hypnosis might work by helping remap the default neural networks. 

    *It is best to reinforce this once a week to "tighten the bolts" on the new neuro pathway?
    *Maybe this is why the once-weekly Nicotine Patch after the initial week might help recovery from LC?

    *Dopamine Replacement Therapy through medicines = 23% success rate.

    *There is little data on Vaping.

    *The best approach to quit smokng is a combination of NRT (patches, gum, lozenges, etc) Different rates of absorption. Patches are the slowest, steadiest release of dopamine. This change keeps the body guessing since the "drug" comes from different pathways at different rates.

    *At night, nicotine wares off (max = 4 hrs) so smokers wake up craving nicotine. 
    Note: Smokers go through withdrawal between each cigarette.
    The NP does not cause addiction in most people because there is no "high" from a continuous, short-term dose.

    Thanks for reading! Leave me comments on Twitter or by email TheNicotineTest@gmailcom

    Take care of yourself, and if you can take care of someone else too! -- Stephen Dubner

    Link to the original Huberman video:

Video Show notes Copied and pasted here for convenience:

Predictors of smoking abstinence following a single-session restructuring intervention with self-hypnosis:

Effect of hypnotic suggestion on cognition and craving in smokers:
Pharmacological Approach to Smoking Cessation: An Updated Review for Daily Clinical Practice:





00:00:00 Nicotine

00:02:47 Momentous Supplements
00:03:41 Tool: Brief Daily Meditation & Focus

00:05:59 The Arrow Model of Focus, Alpha GPC & Garlic Supplements
00:10:43 Thesis, InsideTracker, ROKA

00:14:35 Nicotine Effects vs. Methods of Delivery, Acetylcholine
00:19:55 Where is Nicotine Found? Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors

00:25:12 Nicotine & Effects on the Brain: Appetite, Dopamine & GABA
00:30:58 AG1 (Athletic Greens)

00:32:11 Nicotine, Acetylcholine & Attentional “Spotlighting”
00:37:29 Nicotine, Norepinephrine & Alertness/Energy

00:41:10 Nicotine & Effects on Appetite & Metabolism
00:46:47 Nicotine & Effects on Body: Sympathetic Tone

00:51:29 Nicotine & Cognitive Work vs. Physical Performance
00:55:08 Nicotine Delivery Methods & Side Effects, Young People & Dependency

00:58:35 Smoking, Vaping, Dipping & Snuffing: Carcinogens & Endothelial Cells
01:02:34 Smoking, Vaping, Dipping & Snuffing: Negative Impacts on Lifespan & Health

01:09:23 How to Quit Smoking, Nicotine Cravings & Withdrawal
01:13:56 Vaping & Nicotine, Rates of Effect Onset, Dopamine, Addiction & Depression

01:25:06 Tool: Quitting Smoking & Clinical Hypnosis, Reveri
01:30:16 Bupropion (Wellbutrin) & Quitting Smoking

01:36:24 Tool: A Nicotine Replacement Schedule to Quit Smoking, Nicotine Patch/Gum
01:41:52 Tool: Biological Homeostasis & Nicotine Withdrawal, The “First Week” Strategy

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