, Volume 234, Issue 4, pp 727–738 | Cite as

Nicotine-induced enhancement of Pavlovian alcohol-seeking behavior in rats

  • Jean-Marie N. Maddux
  • Nadia ChaudhriEmail author
Original Investigation



Nicotine enhances responding elicited by Pavlovian cues that predict positive outcomes.


We tested the hypothesis that nicotine acting at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) would augment Pavlovian alcohol-seeking.


Male, Long-Evans rats with unrestricted access to food and water were acclimated to drinking 15% ethanol in their home cages and then given Pavlovian conditioning sessions in which each trial of a 15-s conditioned stimulus (CS, 12 trials/session) was paired with 0.2 ml of ethanol (unconditioned stimulus, US, 2.4 ml/session). Entries into a port where ethanol was delivered were used to assess conditioning. Control groups received explicitly unpaired trials of the CS and US. In experiment 1, systemic injections of saline (1 ml/kg) or nicotine (0.4 mg/kg, freebase) were administered before each session. In experiments 2 and 3, an identical regimen of saline or nicotine injections was administered before the start of Pavlovian conditioning sessions.


All paired groups acquired conditioned port-entry responding to the CS, indicative of Pavlovian alcohol-seeking, whereas unpaired control group did not. Pre-session nicotine injections increased CS port-entries relative to saline, only in the paired group. This nicotine-induced enhancement of Pavlovian alcohol-seeking was blocked by pre-treatment with the nAChR antagonist mecamylamine. Prior exposure to nicotine did not influence the subsequent acquisition of Pavlovian alcohol-seeking.


These findings highlight for the first time that nicotine acting at nAChRs augments Pavlovian alcohol-seeking, specifically in non-restricted rats. Individuals who smoke and drink may thus be particularly susceptible to alcohol cues that could trigger further drinking.


Pavlovian conditioned approach Ethanol Goal-tracking Mecamylamine 



A Nouveau Chercheur award (N.C.) from Fonds de la recherche du Québec—Santé (FRQS) funded this research. N.C. is the recipient of an FRQS Chercheur-Boursier Junior 1 award and a member of the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology/FRQS Groupe de recherche en neurobiologie comportementale (CSBN/GRNC). J-M.M. received funding from CSBN/GRNC, Concordia University and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC; N.C.). The authors would like to thank Stephen Cabilio for assistance with Med-PC programming and data extraction and Sabrina Heffernan, Angela Ortiz, Tracy Rothwell, and Chandra Srey for assistance with experiments.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 149 kb).
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ESM 2 (DOCX 54 kb).
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ESM 3 (DOCX 54 kb).


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology/FRQS Groupe de recherche en neurobiologie comportementaleConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada

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