Conditioned Enhancement of the Nicotine Reinforcer

Sergios Charntikov, Steven T. Pittenger, Natashia Swalve, Scott T. Barrett, Rick A. Bevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study was designed to assess whether nicotine can acquire additional reinforcing properties through associations with other rewards. To this end, rats self-administered nicotine-alone (0.01 mg/kg) or nicotine paired with access to sucrose during the conditioning phase. In the subsequent challenge phase, we tested the effect of nicotine-sucrose pairings on the reinforcing effects of nicotine using a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement. Using this approach, we show that (a) rats in both paired and nicotine-alone conditions self-administered similar amounts of nicotine in the initial conditioning phase of the study when intake was limited to 10 infusions per session, (b) nicotine rapidly acquired control over goal-tracking behavior in the paired condition, (c) rats that had a history of nicotine and sucrose pairings worked harder and took more nicotine as measured on a progressive ratio using a distinct response form, and (d) conditioned goal-tracking evoked by nicotine did not show extinction when sucrose was no longer paired with nicotine over the 11 days of nicotine self-administration on a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement. Overall, our results demonstrate that in addition to the multifaceted nature of nicotine stimulus that includes primary reinforcing effects, conditioned reinforcing effects, and reward enhancing effects, nicotine can also acquire additional reinforcing properties through associations with other rewards. This ability to acquire additional reinforcing properties through associative learning may contribute to the development and perpetuation of tobacco use disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • E-cigarettes
  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • Rats
  • Self-administration
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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