Date of this Version
Neuropsychopharmacology (2012) 37, 876–884; doi:10.1038/npp.2011.263; published online 2 November 2011
Nicotine has both unconditioned and conditioned stimulus properties. Conditioned stimulus properties of nicotine may contribute to the tenacity of nicotine addiction. The purpose of this experiment was to use neurohistochemical analysis of rapidly developing c-Fos protein to elucidate neurobiological loci involved in the processing of nicotine as an interoceptive conditioned stimulus (CS). Rats were injected (SC) in an intermixed fashion with saline or nicotine (16 sessions of each) and placed in conditioning chambers where they were given one of the three conditions depending on group assignment: (a) nicotine paired 100% of the time with intermittent access to sucrose (nicotine-CS condition), (b) nicotine and saline each paired 50% of the time with sucrose (chamber-CS condition), or (c) no sucrose US control (CS-alone condition). Rats in the nicotine-CS condition acquired the discrimination as evidenced by goal-tracking (ie, increased dipper entries before initial sucrose delivery) only on nicotine sessions. The chamber-CS condition showed goal-tracking on all sessions; no goal-tracking was seen in the CS-alone condition. On the test day, rats in each condition were challenged with saline or nicotine and later assessed for c-Fos immunoreactivity. In concordance with previous reports, nicotine induced c-Fos expression in the majority of areas tested; however, learning-dependent expression was specific to dorsomedial and ventromedial regions of caudate-putamen (dmCPu, vmCPu). Only rats in the nicotine-CS condition, when challenged with nicotine, had higher c-Fos expression in the dmCPu and vmCPu. These results suggest that medial areas of CPu involved in excitatory conditioning with an appetitive nicotine CS.