Social interaction promotes nicotine self-administration with olfactogustatory cues in adolescent rats.

Research paper by Hao H Chen, Burt M BM Sharp, Shannon G SG Matta, Qingling Q Wu

Indexed on: 29 Jul '11Published on: 29 Jul '11Published in: Neuropsychopharmacology


Cigarette smoking is a social behavior. Smoking is also accompanied by distinctive gustatory and olfactory stimulation. However, none of these factors affecting nicotine intake are modeled in existing preclinical studies. We report a novel model of adolescent nicotine self-administration (SA) in rats where licking on drinking spouts was used as the operant behavior to activate the concurrent delivery of nicotine (i.v.) and an appetitive olfactogustatory (OG) cue, and social interaction was required for stable SA. The operant chamber was divided by a panel that separated the SA rat and another rat serving as the demonstrator, who had free access to the OG cue but did not receive nicotine. Orofacial contacts were permitted by the divider. Conditioned taste aversion prevented solo rats to self-administer nicotine. However, stable nicotine (15-30 μg/kg, free base) SA was established in the presence of demonstrator rats with free access to the OG cue. Omitting the olfactory component of the cue prevented the acquisition of nicotine SA. Mecamylamine, a nicotinic antagonist, reduced licking behavior. Familiar peers were more effective demonstrators in facilitating the acquisition of nicotine SA than were unfamiliar rats. No sex difference in nicotine intake was found. These data indicate that the contingent OG cue is associated with the aversive property of nicotine that prevents subsequent drug intake. Social information encoded in olfaction not only permits the establishment of stable nicotine SA but also enhances nicotine intake. These findings implicate adolescent social interactions in promoting smoking behavior by surmounting the aversive property of nicotine.