Smokers that begin during adolescence are more likely to develop nicotine dependence than those who begin as adults. However, the factors that contribute to this remain largely unknown. Here we utilized a novel operant oral nicotine self-administration procedure in mice to assess the consequences of adolescent nicotine exposure on nicotine and saccharin (non-drug) reinforcement in adults. Animals were given non-contingent exposure to either saline or nicotine using the osmotic minipumps during both adolescence and adulthood for 2 weeks. Reinforcing efficacy for oral nicotine and saccharin was assessed using the progressive ratio schedule 2-weeks following the washout period in adults. Non-contingent nicotine exposure in adolescence drastically increased operant responding for oral nicotine but reduced responding for oral saccharin in the group re-exposed to nicotine in adulthood. Interestingly, adolescent nicotine-exposed mice that received saline exposure as adults exhibited higher preference for oral saccharin. However, breakpoints for oral nicotine in these mice remained comparable to control animals. Surprisingly, both adolescent and adult nicotine exposure increased inactive lever responding during self-administration presumably reflecting impulsive responding. Our data suggest that adolescent nicotine exposure produces an increase in reinforcement sensitivity in adulthood as reflected by increased saccharin self-administration but this sensitivity becomes biased towards nicotine self-administration when re-exposed to nicotine in adulthood. Moreover, nicotine/saccharin reinforcement could be impacted by changes in cognitive control, such as increased impulsivity. These distinct behavioral mechanisms may act in concert to facilitate maladaptive nicotine taking in smokers that initiate nicotine use during adolescence.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Behavioral Neuroscience