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The behavioral impact of nicotine withdrawal

Joyce Besheer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Researchers can use animal models to investigate the biological bases of nicotine addiction. The existing literature indicates that nicotine withdrawal decreases sensitivity to rewarding stimuli, which is suggestive of anhedonia (a common symptom of drug withdrawal). The main goal of this dissertation research was to further examine this notion of decreased reward function during nicotine withdrawal, specifically in relation to rats' response to novel stimuli. ^ Rats were tested in a novel-object place conditioning task at different time points of withdrawal. Conditioning (i.e., more time spent in the environment repeatedly paired with novel objects) was evident in controls and in rats that had experienced 4 days of nicotine withdrawal. Interestingly, conditioning was blocked in rats that had experienced 1, 2, or 3 days of nicotine withdrawal. This failure to acquire the conditioned association implies that the rewarding properties of interacting with novel objects were not readily associated with the environment in which they were repeatedly presented. Alternatively, undergoing nicotine withdrawal may have affected: (1) processing of the information about the objects, (2) environmental familiarization processes, or (3) expression of the conditioned association. These alternative explanations for the withdrawal-induced failure to acquire the conditioned association were assessed. In a novel-object detection task, nicotine withdrawal did not affect novel object detection, thus eliminating the possibility that withdrawal impaired the processing of the novel objects. Withdrawal precipitated prior to environmental familiarization sessions did not affect time spent interacting with a novel object (i.e., index of familiarity), suggesting that withdrawal did not affect familiarization processes. Withdrawal precipitated prior to tests in both the novelty detection and place conditioning tasks eliminated an account of a withdrawal-induced impairment in expression. ^ In sum, this work extends previous findings of withdrawal-induced alterations in reward functioning to another preparation that has been used to assess the rewarding properties of various stimuli. Further investigation of the affective components of nicotine withdrawal will lead to a comprehensive understanding of the withdrawal syndrome. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Neuroscience|Psychology, Physiological

Recommended Citation

Besheer, Joyce, "The behavioral impact of nicotine withdrawal" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3045508.