Extending the role of associative learning processes in nicotine addiction.

Rick A. Bevins, Matthew I. Palmatier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Compulsive smoking is a worldwide public health problem. Although research has confirmed the importance of associative learning processes in nicotine addiction, therapies targeting nicotine-associated cues still have a high relapse rate. Most theories conceptualize nicotine as an 'outcome' that reinforces behaviors and/or changes the affective value of stimuli. Albeit important, this view does not capture the complexity of associative processes involved in nicotine addiction. For example, nicotine serves as a conditional stimulus acquiring new appetitive/affective properties when paired with a non-drug reward. Also, nicotine functions as an occasion setter that participates in higher-order associative processes that likely permit a more pervasive influence of conditioned cues that are resistant to typically cue-exposure therapy techniques. Finally, nicotine appears to amplify the salience of other stimuli that have some incentive value resulting in enhanced nicotine self-administration and conditioned reinforcement processes. Future smoking intervention strategies should take into consideration these additional associative learning processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-158
Number of pages16
JournalBehavioral and cognitive neuroscience reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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