, Volume 205, Issue 4, pp 635–645 | Cite as

Lack of reinforcement enhancing effects of nicotine in non-dependent smokers

  • Kenneth A. Perkins
  • Amy Grottenthaler
  • Annette S. Wilson
Original Investigation



Recent animal research has shown that, aside from its primary and secondary reinforcing effects, nicotine may enhance reinforcement from stimuli unrelated to nicotine intake. Little human research has directly examined this potentially important influence of nicotine.


We report two virtually identical studies examining the influence of nicotine, via nasal spray (study 1) and cigarettes (study 2), on the reinforcing effects of rewards unrelated to nicotine intake.

Materials and methods

Both studies involved young adults with some past smoking exposure but no history of nicotine dependence. Reinforcement was assessed by responses on a simple operant computer task reinforced by: money, music, the termination of aversive noise, or no reward (control). Participants responded for rewards on three separate sessions, involving intermittent dosing of 0, 5, or 10 μg/kg nicotine via nasal spray (study 1) or the smoking of 0.05 or 0.6 mg nicotine cigarettes or no smoking (study 2).


Results showed no effects of nicotine, by nasal spray or cigarette smoking, on reinforced responses, although nicotine increased some subjective responses (e.g. head rush/buzzed, liking). Nicotine via smoking also did not influence affect or hedonic ratings of slides varying in mood valence in an exploratory trial in study 2.


These results do not support the notion that nicotine per se enhances the reinforcing value of other reinforcers in humans. Any reinforcement enhancing effects of nicotine in humans may be specific to dependent smokers or may be relatively narrow and dependent upon procedural conditions different from those in the current studies.


Nicotine Reinforcement Reinforcement enhancement Reward Smoking 



This research was supported by NIH Grant DA19478 (KAP). The authors thank Mike Eddy, Roy Chengappa, Ryan Shugarman, and Carolyn Fonte for their assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth A. Perkins
    • 1
  • Amy Grottenthaler
    • 1
  • Annette S. Wilson
    • 2
  1. 1.Western Psychiatric Institute and ClinicUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Salk HallUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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