Reinforcement enhancing effects of nicotine via smoking
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In animals, nicotine enhances reinforcement from stimuli unrelated to nicotine intake. Human research is suggestive but has not clearly shown a similar influence of nicotine.
We assessed acute effects of nicotine via smoking on enhancement of positive (money, music) or negative (termination of noise) reinforcers, or no “reward” (control). These different rewards determined the generalizability of nicotine effects.
Materials and methods
Dependent (n = 25) and nondependent (n = 27) smokers participated in three sessions, each after overnight abstinence. Using a within-subjects design, sessions involved no smoking or smoking denicotinized (0.05 mg) or nicotine (0.6 mg) QuestR brand cigarettes. For comparison, a fourth session involved no abstinence prior to smoking one's own brand to gauge responses under typical nicotine satiation. Reinforcement was assessed by responses on a simple operant computer task for the rewards, each available singly on a progressive ratio schedule during separate trials.
The reinforcing effect of music, but not other rewards, was greater due to the nicotine cigarette, compared to the denicotinized cigarette or no smoking. Reinforcement enhancing effects of nicotine did not differ between dependent and nondependent groups, indicating no influence of withdrawal relief. Responding due to acute nicotine after abstinence was very similar to responding to one's own brand after no abstinence.
Acute nicotine intake per se from smoking after abstinence enhances the reinforcing value of rewards unassociated with smoking, perhaps in a manner comparable to ad lib smoking after no abstinence. Nicotine's reinforcement enhancing effects may be specific to certain rewards, perhaps those sensory in nature.
KeywordsNicotine Reinforcement enhancement Reward Smoking Dependence
This research was supported by NIH Grant DA31218 (KAP). Neither author has any potential conflicts of interest to report.
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