Date of this Version
Learning & Memory. 2011 July; 18(7): 452–458.
Nicotine functions as a negative feature in a Pavlovian discriminated goal-tracking task. Whether withholding of responding to the conditional stimulus (CS) reflects nicotine functioning as a conditioned inhibitor is unknown. Accordingly, the present research sought to determine whether nicotine trained as a negative feature passed the retardation-of-acquisition and summation tests, thus characterizing it as a pharmacological (interoceptive) conditioned inhibitor. In the retardation test, rats received either nicotine (0.4 mg/kg) or chlordiazepoxide (5 mg/kg) negative feature training in which the drug state signaled when a 15-sec light CS would not be paired with sucrose; light was paired with sucrose on intermixed saline sessions. Following acquisition of the discrimination, both groups received nicotine CS training in which sucrose was intermittently available on nicotine but not intermixed saline sessions. Acquisition of conditioned responding to the nicotine CS was slower in the nicotine negative feature group than in the chlordiazepoxide negative feature group. In the summation test, rats were assigned to either the nicotine negative feature group or a pseudoconditioning control. In this control, the light CS was paired with sucrose on half the nicotine and half the saline sessions. Both groups also received excitatory training in which a white noise CS was paired with sucrose. The summation test consisted of presenting the white noise in conjunction with nicotine. Conditioned responding evoked by the white noise was decreased in the negative feature but not the pseudoconditioning group. Combined, the results provide the first evidence that an interoceptive stimulus (nicotine) can become a conditioned inhibitor.