Although the detrimental effects of nicotine in early brain development and the addictive properties in adulthood are well known, little is known about the neurobiological effects of nicotine in adolescence. An important question is whether adolescents and adults differ in the development of nicotine sensitization and drug-cue conditioning.
To examine the behavioral effects of multiple, repeated injections of nicotine on both sensitization and drug-cue conditioning in the adolescent rat, and to compare this profile with the adult rat.
Sixteen male adolescent (28 day) and 16 young adult (70 day) rats were given injections of either saline or nicotine and tested for motor activity for 90 min for ten consecutive days. Following 4 days of no testing, animals were given a sham injection and placed in the testing apparatus for 90 min. A dose–response curve for nicotine was also generated using two additional groups of ten adolescent and ten adult male rats.
Adolescent rats, unlike adults, did not exhibit signs of nicotine-cue conditioning, and displayed less robust sensitization to the locomotor effects of nicotine than adults. Dose–response testing revealed differences in adolescent responsivity to nicotine in measures of rearing, but not ambulation. Initial exposure to nicotine resulted in increased sensitivity to the motor-activating effects of nicotine but less sensitivity to the depressant effects of nicotine in rearing in adolescents.
Adolescent animals display different long-term neuroadaptive responses to nicotine than adult animals, possibly related to immature or still-developing plasticity mechanisms in the prefrontal cortex.
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This work was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse grants DA13780 and DA14464 to A.E.K. T.L.S. was supported by training grant NIGMS GM07507 and by National Institute on Drug Abuse Predoctoral National Research Service Award DA00003. Additional support was also provided by the TERN Network of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Institute on Mental Health grant 1 R24 MH 67346-01.
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Schochet, T.L., Kelley, A.E. & Landry, C.F. Differential behavioral effects of nicotine exposure in adolescent and adult rats. Psychopharmacology 175, 265–273 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-004-1831-9
- Drug-cue conditioning