As pioneers on the forefront of one of the biggest advancements in Health since the dawn of penicillin and the discovery of coffee, we vapers are well aware of the fact that it has been revealed through numerous studies that nicotine, by itself (sans the inclusion of all those nasty carcinogens generally associated with smoking tobacco) is not only harmless but may actually increase one’s mental acuity. This is a fact that has been circulating around the e-cigarette-enthusiast community for quite some time now. However, if you’re like me, when pressed in civil debate by the proverbial “haters,” you might be hard-pressed to come up with specific data to support the claim. This article is being written to alleviate that problem and to add to our arsenal of scientifically-proven information available for immediate regurgitation when put in a position of having to defend e-cigarette technology. And even if you rarely find yourselves engaged in apologetics with members of the opposing side, this is still fascinating information that will solidify your decision to be a member of the vaping subculture.
The key to understanding just how nicotine helps brain activity, memorization, and learning is the recent discovery of OLM-alpha2 cells, known in layman’s terms as gatekeeper cells (I like to picture them with Sigourney Weaver’s face). The job of these cells is to connect to the principle cells of the hippocampus region of the brain, and to prioritize local (within the hippocampus) and long-distance (from elsewhere in the brain) circuit/thought information. Nicotine molecules activate these gatekeeper cells, thereby enabling faster and more thorough reception of circuit input. The method used to study this is called optogenetics, a relatively new field involving the stimulation of selected nerve cells with light. This controlled light affects the brain similarly to nicotine, but obviously we can’t all walk around with light sources wired into our brains (at least until the Borg invade Earth). Studies are still being done to determine exactly what types of memory and learned knowledge can be activated and streamlined through this process. Originally, the ultimate goal of these studies was to attempt to activate these gatekeeper cells artificially, without the use of nicotine because, at the time of the beginning of this particular division of neuroscience, nicotine was pretty much only available through unhealthy tobacco use. Now, however, with the onset of the electronic cigarette industry, it is becoming possible to deliver nicotine, and only nicotine, to the brain without ingestion of unwanted, harmful chemicals from tobacco smoke.
Nicotinic acetylcholinergic receptors, more commonly referred to as nicotine receptors, are channels located within the hippocampus that are responsible for harnessing nicotine molecules in a way that facilitates cognitive processes. They essentially work both pre and post-synaptically to aid in synaptic plasticity. If you’ve ever studied the brain in college, or just for kicks like I do, you already know that synapses in the brain are fundamental to the rapid exchange of information which takes place constantly in our brains, making human thought possible. Synapses are responsible for thought, memory (both short and long-term), committing new information to long-term memory, recollection, etc. Everything that we take for granted under the generic header of “thinking” requires the healthy operation of our brain’s nerve cell synapses. The nicotine receptors, when activated, utilize calcium in order to ease this communication between nerve cells. And nicotine molecules aid in that activation by assisting in the release of D-Serine, and also in the stripping away of unwanted ions from the receptors.
So, what does all of this mean? It means, despite the efforts of hundreds of anti-smoking organizations throughout the country (and world, for that matter) to demonize the wrong part of tobacco smoking, nicotine is now being shown to actually have therapeutic value in the field of Medicine. A study done by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences has shown that nicotine patches, traditionally used to aid in smoking cessation efforts, may actually be more effective in delaying the onset of, treating, and possibly even (someday) curing cognitive diseases and injuries such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Short-Term Memory Loss and the like. These are just a few of the many studies that have been done on this subject, and all of them have yielded pretty much the same results.
There is one more element to this that bears repeating; many of these same studies have discovered that B-vitamin deficiencies are also responsible for short and long-term memory loss. If this is true, then the introduction to low doses of both nicotine and B-vitamins would do wonders for memory-related health issues. And since vitamins can be emulsified in glycerine/glycol vapor, as can nicotine… hintity, hint, hint. (For more information on the use of E-cigarettes as vitamin delivery systems, read The REAL Future of E-Cigarettes… Vitamin Delivery Systems.) Either way you look at it, we are inarguably sitting on the cusp of a new age where the inhalation of vapor, no matter how much it might look like smoking, is actually both a healthy and health-promoting activity.
The science is definitely present in spades at this point. There is no point in the nay-sayers continuing to suggest that there haven’t been any “serious scientific inquiries” into the practice of vaping and the E-cigarette industry in general. If they want to move forward with their claims that vaping is, in fact, unhealthy, then they produce evidence on scientific grounds and not merely suggest through fear-based smear campaigns that the manufacturers of electronic cigarette liquids and equipment are somehow culpable of a sin against social health. Personally, I would like to extend to all of these anti-vaping organizations the hand of forgiveness, and an invitation to join this brave, new, E-cigarette revolution in health and leisure sciences.