Repeated nicotine exposure enhances reward-related learning in the rat

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Jul;28(7):1264-71. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300173. Epub 2003 Apr 9.


Repeated exposure to addictive drugs causes neuroadaptive changes in cortico-limbic-striatal circuits that may underlie alterations in incentive-motivational processes and reward-related learning. Such drug-induced alterations may be relevant to drug addiction because enhanced incentive motivation and increased control over behavior by drug-associated stimuli may contribute to aspects of compulsive drug-seeking and drug-taking behaviors. This study investigated the consequences of repeated nicotine treatment on the acquisition and performance of Pavlovian discriminative approach behavior, a measure of reward-related learning, in male rats. Water-restricted rats were trained to associate a compound conditioned stimulus (tone+light) with the availability of water (the unconditioned stimulus) in 15 consecutive daily sessions. In separate experiments, rats were repeatedly treated with nicotine (0.35 mg/kg, s.c.) either (1) prior to the onset of training, (2) after each daily training session was completed (ie postsession injections), or (3) received nicotine both before the onset of training as well as after each daily training session. In this study, all nicotine treatment schedules increased Pavlovian discriminative approach behavior and, thus, prior repeated exposure to nicotine, repeated postsession nicotine injections, or both, facilitated reward-related learning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Conditioning, Classical / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Drug Administration Schedule / veterinary*
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Reward*
  • Time Factors


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotine