Menthol blunts the interoceptive discriminative stimulus effects of nicotine in female but not male rats

Y. Wendy Huynh, Anthony Raimondi, Andrew Finkner, Jordan D. Kuck, Carly Selleck, Rick A. Bevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Rationale: Menthol is a widely used tobacco constituent that has shown to enhance nicotine’s reinforcing effects. Objective: To determine whether injected menthol also alters nicotine’s stimulus effects, we used a drug discrimination task. Methods: A total of 57 adult Sprague-Dawley rats (28M, 29F) received 20 positive and 20 negative days (intermixed) of discrimination training. On positive days, rats received a group-specific menthol and nicotine injection (VEH + 0.1 NIC, 1 M + 0.1 NIC, 5 M + 0.1 NIC, VEH + 0.4 NIC, 1 M + 0.4 NIC, 5 M + 0.4 NIC; mg/kg) before eight 15-s cue light presentations (conditioned stimulus (CS)), each followed by 4-s sucrose access. On negative days, all rats were injected with vehicle and saline before eight non-reinforced CS presentations. Next, rats underwent generalization testing with 30 dose combinations of menthol and nicotine. The change in drug-mediated anticipatory goal tracking during the CS was calculated as a difference score (CS minus pre-CS responding). Results: All groups readily acquired drug discrimination. However, difference scores for the 5M + 0.1 NIC group were lower for females. Additionally, females had lower scores for 0.05, 0.1, and 0.4 mg/kg nicotine generalization tests. The lowest nicotine dose discriminable from saline was 0.05 mg/kg for females but 0.025 mg/kg for males. Co-administration with 5 or 10 mg/kg menthol weakened discrimination performance between 0.1 and 0.4 mg/kg and between 0.1 and 0.05 mg/kg nicotine for 0.1 mg/kg nicotine training groups. Conclusions: Female rats that were trained with 0.1 mg/kg nicotine were more sensitive to menthol’s modulatory effects on nicotine’s stimulus effects. This highlights the importance of taking sex and training dose into account when evaluating the interoceptive stimulus effects of nicotine and menthol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2395-2404
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Drug discrimination
  • Menthol
  • Nicotine
  • Occasion setter
  • Rats
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Sex differences
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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