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Learn Mem. 2019 Jan 16;26(2):46-55. doi: 10.1101/lm.048579.118. Print 2019 Feb.

Cocaine, nicotine, and their conditioned contexts enhance consolidation of object memory in rats.

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Department of Psychology and Collaborative Program in Neuroscience, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada.


To test the hypothesis that drugs of abuse and their conditioned stimuli (CSs) enhance memory consolidation, the effects of post-training exposure to cocaine and nicotine were compared to the effects of post-training exposure to contextual stimuli that were paired with the effects of these drugs. Using the object recognition (OR) task, it was first demonstrated that both 10 and 20 mg/kg cocaine, and 0.2 and 0.4 mg/kg nicotine, enhanced recognition memory when administered immediately after, but not 6 h after the sample phase. To establish the drug CSs, rats were confined for 2 h in a chamber (the CS+) after injections of 20 mg/kg cocaine, or 0.4 mg/kg nicotine, and in another chamber (the CS-) after injections of vehicle. This was repeated over 10 d (5 drug/CS+ and 5 vehicle/CS- pairings in total). At the end of this conditioning period, when tested in a drug-free state, rats displayed conditioned hyperactivity in the CS+ relative to the CS-. More important, immediate, but not delayed, post-sample exposure to the cocaine CS+, or nicotine CS+, enhanced OR memory. Therefore, this study reports for the first time that contextual stimuli paired with cocaine and nicotine, like the drugs themselves, have the ability to enhance memory consolidation.

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