Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

January 2006


Published in Psychopharmacology (2006) 184: 470–481. DOI 10.1007/s00213-005-0079-3 Copyright © Springer-Verlag 2005. Used by permission.
This article is online at


Rationale Pavlovian feature negative discriminations have been widely used to understand inhibitory conditioning processes using exteroceptive stimuli. Comparatively little is known about inhibitory conditioning processes using a drug state as a negative feature. A negative feature signals that presentation of a conditional stimulus (CS) will not be paired with an unconditioned stimulus. Objectives: The present research examined whether nicotine served as a negative feature and started characterizing its properties. Methods and results: In acquisition, rats received intermixed saline and nicotine (0.4 mg/kg, base) sessions. On saline sessions, a 15-s light CS was paired with 4-s access to sucrose; the CS was presented on nicotine sessions, but sucrose was withheld. The discrimination was acquired with more goal tracking during the CS on saline sessions. Nicotine’s inhibition of this conditioned response (CR) was sensitive to nicotine dose (ED50=0.225) and injection to testing interval (CR returned at 200 min). Mecamylamine pretreatment, but not hexamethonium, produced a loss of inhibitory control by nicotine suggesting a role for central nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Amphetamine, bupropion, arecoline, and chlordiazepoxide, but not caffeine, substituted for the nicotine feature. However, in locomotor tests, amphetamine and bupropion increased activity; arecoline and chlordiazepoxide decreased activity. For this reason, the motor effects of these ligands could not be dissociated from substitution via shared stimulus properties. Conclusions: This feature negative task provides a preclinical model for studying how drug states inhibit responding, although identifying the process(es) mediating CR inhibition will require further research.