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Nicotine increases sucrose self-administration and seeking in rats


Jeffrey W. Grimm, Department of Psychology and Program in Behavioral Neuroscience, Western Washington University, 516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225-9172, USA. E-mail:


Associations between nicotine in cigarettes and food consumption may alter the incentive value of food such that food cue-reactivity is exaggerated during abstinence from smoking. This effect may contribute to the weight gain associated with cessation of smoking. We examined the effects of nicotine (0.4 mg/kg base subcutaneous) paired (NPD) or unpaired (NUP) with 10% sucrose self-administration (SA; 0.2 ml/delivery, 1 h/day for 10 days) on SA response rate and intake as well as sucrose cue-reactivity following either 1 or 30 days of forced abstinence. Rats were administered the training dose of nicotine prior to a second, consecutive cue-reactivity session. NPD rats responded at over three times the rate for sucrose and earned nearly twice the number of sucrose deliveries as NUP rats or saline controls. Sucrose cue-reactivity was greater after 30 days versus 1 day of forced abstinence for all groups. History of nicotine exposure had no effect on sucrose cue-reactivity. However, the subsequent injection of nicotine increased sucrose cue-reactivity only in the NPD groups. There were no abstinent-dependent effects of nicotine challenge on sucrose cue-reactivity. A study conducted in parallel with water as the reinforcer revealed a less dramatic effect of nicotine on intake. There was no history or abstinence-dependent effects of nicotine on water cue-reactivity. Nicotine increases the reinforcing effects of sucrose and sucrose-paired cues when nicotine is present. An implication of these findings is that relapse to nicotine (cigarettes) could substantially elevate food cue-reactivity.