Nicotine has been suggested to have cognitive enhancing effects. The present study examined the effects of nicotine and the nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine on contextual fear conditioning in C57BL/6 mice. The fear conditioning task was chosen because the task examines two types of learning: contextual learning, and conditioned stimulus (CS)-unconditioned stimulus (US) learning. Multiple doses of nicotine were tested and 0.5 mg/kg nicotine, given on both training and testing days, improved contextual learning but had no effect on formation of an auditory CS-US association. No effect was found at lower doses or when nicotine was given on training day only, or testing day only. The nicotinic receptor antagonist mecamylamine (1 and 2 mg/kg) did not alter contextual fear conditioning but mecamylamine did prevent the nicotine-associated increase in contextual learning. A higher dose of nicotine (1 mg/kg, training day only) interfered with contextual conditioning when the context was paired with both the CS and US, but had no effect on the auditory CS-US association. This effect of 1 mg/kg nicotine on contextual learning disappeared when mice were trained without the CS. The present results indicate that nicotine enhancement of contextual fear conditioning is dose-dependent, but the presence of nicotine is required both during training and testing.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Behavioral Neuroscience