Interoceptive conditioning with the nicotine stimulus: Extinction learning as a method for assessing stimulus similarity across doses

Robert J. Polewan, Stephanie A. Savala, Rick A. Bevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Interoceptive conditioning involving the nicotine stimulus likely contributes to chronic tobacco use. To better understand the nature of this interoceptive conditioning, we compared generalization during repeated extinction with generalization in a 'transfer of extinction' test using a wide range of test doses. Rats were first trained in the discriminated goal-tracking task in which nicotine (0.2 or 0.4 mg/kg), but not saline, was paired with repeated intermittent access to sucrose. Across sessions, nicotine acquired control of approach behavior directed at the location of previous sucrose deliveries. Extinction followed with eight 20-min sessions without sucrose access; extinction doses of nicotine ranged from 0.05 to 0.6 mg/kg. In rats trained with 0.4 mg/kg, the 0.1, 0.2, and 0.6 mg/kg doses evoked comparable responding across extinction sessions; substitution was only partial at 0.05 and 0.075 mg/kg (i.e. above saline controls, but less than the training dose). With the 0.2 mg/kg training dose, complete generalization was seen only at the 0.1 and 0.4 mg/kg doses. After extinction, rats were given a transfer test with their training dose. Rats trained with 0.4 mg/kg showed full transfer of extinction learning with 0.1, 0.2, and 0.6 mg/kg (i.e. responding comparable with extinction with the training dose). Partial transfer was observed at 0.075 mg/kg. With the 0.2 mg/kg nicotine dose, only 0.4 mg/kg fully generalized; 0.075, 0.1, and 0.6 mg/kg showed partial transfer. Extinction with 0.05 mg/kg dose did not show transfer to either training dose. These findings indicated that conclusions regarding stimulus similarity across nicotine doses can vary with testing protocol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-54
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioural pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • drug discrimination
  • goal-tracking
  • rat
  • smoking
  • tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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