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Nicotine Content and Abstinence State Have Different Effects on Subjective Ratings of Positive Versus Negative Reinforcement from Smoking

Lindsey1,2,3, K., Bracken1,2,3,*, B., MacLean1, R., Ryan1, E., Lukas1,2,3, S., and Frederick2,3, B.

Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, 103(4) (February 2013)

Despite the well-known adverse health consequences of smoking, approximately 20% of US adults smoke tobacco cigarettes. Much of the research on smoking reinforcement and the maintenance of tobacco smoking behavior has focused on nicotine; however, a number of other non-nicotine factors are likely to influence the reinforcing effects of smoked tobacco. A growing number of studies suggest that non-nicotine factors, through many pairings with nicotine, are partially responsible for the reinforcing effect of smoking. Additionally, both clinical studies and preclinical advances in our understanding of nicotinic receptor regulation suggest that abstinence from smoking may influence smoking reinforcement. These experiments were conducted for 2 reasons: to validate a MRI-compatible cigarette smoking device; and to simultaneously investigate the impact of nicotine, smoking-associated conditioned reinforcers, and smoking abstinence state on subjective ratings of smoking reinforcement. Participants smoked nicotine and placebo cigarettes through an fMRI compatible device in an overnight-abstinent state or in a nonabstinent state, after having smoked a cigarette 25minutes prior. Outcome measures were within-subject changes in physiology and subjective ratings of craving and drug effect during the smoking of nicotine or placebo cigarettes on different days in both abstinence states. Cigarette type (nicotine vs. placebo) had a significant effect on positive subjective ratings of smoking reinforcement (“High”, “Like Drug”, “Feel Drug”; nicotine>placebo). In contrast, abstinence state was found to have significant effects on both positive and negative ratings of smoking reinforcement (“Crave”, “Anxiety”, “Irritability”; abstinence>nonabstinence). Interaction effects between abstinence and nicotine provide clues about the importance of neuroadaptive mechanisms operating in dependence, as well as the impact of conditioned reinforcement on subjective ratings of smoking-induced high.

1 Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory, McLean Hospital
2 Brain Imaging Center, McLean Hospital
3 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
* B. Bracken is now at Charles River Analytics

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