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Effect of wheel-running during abstinence on subsequent nicotine-seeking in rats

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Exercise appears to be a promising non-pharmacological treatment for nicotine addiction that may be useful for the vulnerable adolescent population.


The aim of this study is to determine if wheel-running, an animal model of aerobic exercise, during an abstinence period would decrease subsequent nicotine-seeking in rats that had extended access to nicotine self-administration during adolescence.


Male adolescent rats (n = 55) were trained to self-administer saline or nicotine infusions (5 or 10 μg/kg) under a fixed ratio 1 schedule with a maximum of 20 infusions/day beginning on postnatal day 30. After 5 days, access was extended to 23 h/day with unlimited infusions for a total of 10 days. After the last self-administration session, rats were moved to polycarbonate cages for a 10-day abstinence period where they either had access to a locked or unlocked running wheel for 2 h/day. Nicotine-seeking was examined following the 10th day of abstinence under a within-session extinction/cue-induced reinstatement paradigm.


Intake was higher at the 10 μg/kg dose as compared to the 5 μg/kg dose; however, intake did not differ within doses prior to wheel assignment. Compared to saline controls, rats that self-administered nicotine at either dose showed a significant increase in drug-seeking during extinction, and consistent with our hypothesis, exercise during abstinence attenuated this effect. Nicotine led to modest but significant levels of cue-induced reinstatement; however, in this adolescent-onset model, levels were variable and not affected by exercise.


Exercise may effectively reduce relapse vulnerability for adolescent-onset nicotine addiction

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This work was supported by grants from Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth 8520667 and 8520893 (D.H.B.), NIDA RO1DA024716-F1 (W.J.L.), and NIH training grant T32 HD007323 (V.S.).

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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Correspondence to Wendy J. Lynch.

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Sanchez, V., Moore, C.F., Brunzell, D.H. et al. Effect of wheel-running during abstinence on subsequent nicotine-seeking in rats. Psychopharmacology 227, 403–411 (2013).

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