Background: Nicotine exposure affects the hippocampus through activation of
hippocampal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), which are present throughout excitatory
and inhibitory hippocampal circuitry. The role of cholinergic functioning in the hippocampus varies
across developmental stages so that nicotine exposure differentially affects this region depending
upon timing of exposure, producing developmentally distinct changes in structure, function, and
Methods: We synthesize findings across literature in this area to comprehensively review current
understanding of the unique effects of nicotine exposure on the hippocampus throughout the
lifespan with a focus on hippocampal morphology, cholinergic functioning, and hippocampusdependent
learning and memory.
Conclusions: Chronic and acute nicotine exposure differentially affect hippocampus structure,
functioning, and related learning and memory in the perinatal period, adolescence, and aging.
Age-related differences in sensitivity to nicotine exposure should be considered in the research of
nicotine addiction and the development of nicotine addiction treatments.