Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology

Sensory reinforcement-enhancing effects of nicotine via smoking.

PMID 25180451


As has been found in nicotine research on animals, research on humans has shown that acute nicotine enhances reinforcement from rewards unrelated to nicotine intake, but this effect may be specific to rewards from stimuli that are "sensory" in nature. We assessed acute effects of nicotine via smoking on responding for music or video rewards (sensory), for monetary reward (nonsensory), or for no reward (control), to gauge the generalizability of nicotine's reinforcement-enhancing effects. Using a fully within-subjects design, dependent smokers (N = 20) participated in 3 similar experimental sessions, each following overnight abstinence (verified by carbon monoxide <10 ppm) and varying only in the smoking condition. Sessions involved no smoking or smoking "denicotinized" ("denic;" 0.05 mg) or nicotine (0.6 mg) Quest brand cigarettes in controlled fashion prior to responding on a simple operant computer task for each reward separately using a progressive ratio schedule. The reinforcing effects of music and video rewards, but not money, were significantly greater due to the nicotine versus denic cigarette (i.e., nicotine per se), whereas there were no differences between denic cigarette smoking and no smoking (i.e., smoking behavior per se), except for no reward. These effects were not influenced by withdrawal relief from either cigarette. Results that generalize from an auditory to a visual reward confirm that acute nicotine intake per se enhances the reinforcing value of sensory rewards, but its effects on the value of other (perhaps nonsensory) types of rewards may be more modest.