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Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are required for the conditioned reinforcing properties of sucrose-associated cues.

Journal article
Authors Elin Löf
Peter Olausson
Rosita Stomberg
Jane R Taylor
Bo Söderpalm
Published in Psychopharmacology
Volume 212
Issue 3
Pages 321-328
ISSN 1432-2072
Publication year 2010
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Pages 321-328
Language en
Keywords Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, Conditioned reinforcement, Addiction, Reward, Rat
Subject categories Psychiatry


RATIONALE: We recently demonstrated that blocking specific nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) abolishes the conditioned reinforcing properties of ethanol-associated cues in rat, suggesting nAChRs as promising pharmacological targets for prevention of cue-induced relapse. OBJECTIVES: The present study investigated the involvement of nAChR subtypes in the conditioned reinforcing properties of stimuli associated with a natural reward (sucrose). METHODS: Water-deprived rats were trained to associate a tone + light stimulus (CS) with the presentation of a 0.1 M sucrose solution for 10 consecutive days. On the subsequent day, the animals were tested on the stringent acquisition of a new instrumental response with conditioned reinforcement, following a systemic injection of the nonselective nAChR antagonist mecamylamine (MEC) or the selective alpha7 and alpha6/alpha3beta2beta3* nAChR antagonist methyllycaconitine (MLA). At testing, the rats were presented with two novel levers. Responding on the lever assigned as active (CR lever) resulted in a presentation of the CS alone, while pressing the inactive lever (NCR lever) had no programmed consequences. RESULTS: Control animals pressed the CR lever significantly more than the NCR lever, demonstrating that the CR had acquired conditioned reinforcing properties. Systemic MEC as well as MLA reduced the CR lever responses to the same level as for the NCR lever. CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate a role for the alpha7 and/or alpha6/alpha3beta2beta3* nAChRs in conditioned reinforcement to a natural reward and suggest neuronal nAChRs as common mediators of the impact of cues on incentive processes.

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