Document Type

Student Research Paper


Fall 2022

Academic Department


Faculty Advisor(s)

Dr. Elizabeth Dalton


Nicotine in cigarettes is a highly addictive substance but can also alter the incentive value of cues associated with smoking as well as other natural reinforcers, such as food. While previous work has shown nicotine to enhance the saliency of and reactivity to sucrose-paired cues by serving as an occasion-setting stimulus while also enhancing reward-learning, much of this work has been done in male rats. In the present study, we explore whether nicotine can enhance sucrose self-administration and sucrose-seeking in female rats. For ten days female Sprague-Dawley rats were either given subcutaneous saline (ST, saline trained) or nicotine (NT, nicotine trained, 0.4 mg/kg) prior to sucrose self-administration. Then, rats were given two separate tests for sucrose-seeking in which they received either a saline or nicotine challenge. We show that ST and NT animals have mostly comparable acquisition of sucrose self-administration, with the exception of NT animals lever pressing at a higher rate when the sucrose-paired audiovisual cue was on. We also show that NT trained animals elevate responding during sucrose-seeking tests when given a nicotine challenge compared to a saline challenge while ST animals have comparable responding. Thus, we show that nicotine is an occasion-setting stimulus for sucrose-seeking in female rats, as is in male rats, but unlike in male rats where the effects of nicotine on reward-learning are profound, we observed subtler effects on acquisition of sucrose-self administration. Consideration of nicotine and cue-saliency leads to implications for treatment in those with a nicotine addiction, targeting various aspects of the addiction cycle. Menthol has been shown to effect various aspects of nicotine’s mechanism of action and would be worth further investigation into its effect nicotine’s relationship with cue-seeking.


Honors Senior Thesis; Honors in the Discipline

Included in

Psychology Commons