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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2007 Jun 15;89(1):52-9. Epub 2007 Jan 19.

The reinforcement enhancing effects of nicotine depend on the incentive value of non-drug reinforcers and increase with repeated drug injections.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 3137 Sennott Square, 210 S. Bouquet Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


We have hypothesized that nicotine has two effects on reinforcement; it increases the probability of responses resulting in nicotine delivery (primary reinforcement) and enhances the apparent reward value of non-nicotine reinforcers (reinforcement enhancing effect). The present studies investigated two predictions generated by this hypothesis: (1) that the reinforcement enhancing effect will depend on apparent stimulus reward value and (2) that the temporal profile of this effect would depend on the pharmacological profile of nicotine. In Experiment 1, rats were trained to lever press for one of two audio-visual stimuli that differed in their intrinsic reinforcing value and then the effect of pre-session nicotine (0.4 mg/kg base) or saline injections was tested. The stimulus that supported very low rates of operant responding displayed smaller increases in responding after pre-session injections of nicotine. In Experiment 2 the effect of nicotine injected 5 min before the session was compared to the effect of nicotine injected 1h after the session using the more reinforcing stimulus condition from the first experiment. A control group received only vehicle injections. In contrast to nicotine injected just prior to the session, post-session injections of nicotine had no detectable effect on responding for the more reinforcing stimulus. These results indicate that the reinforcement enhancing action of nicotine depends on the intensity of the primary reinforcer and that enhanced reinforcement by nicotine depends on coincident access to a stimulus with reinforcing properties.

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