Nicotine withdrawal disrupts new contextual learning

George S. Portugal, Thomas J. Gould

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Interactions between nicotine and learning could contribute to nicotine addiction. Although previous research indicates that nicotine withdrawal disrupts contextual learning, the effects of nicotine withdrawal on contextual memories acquired before withdrawal are unknown. The present study investigated whether nicotine withdrawal disrupted recall of prior contextual memories by examining the effects of nicotine withdrawal on recall of nicotine conditioned place preference (CPP) and contextual fear conditioning. C57BL/6J mice trained in CPP exhibited a significant preference for an initially non-preferred chamber that was paired with 0.35 mg/kg nicotine. Following CPP, mice were implanted with mini-osmotic pumps containing 6.3 mg/kg/d nicotine or saline. Pumps were removed twelve days later and nicotine CPP was retested 24 h later. Mice withdrawn from chronic nicotine exhibited CPP, suggesting that older drug-context associations are not disrupted by nicotine withdrawal. One hour later, the same mice were trained in contextual and cued fear conditioning; nicotine withdrawal disrupted contextual but not cued fear conditioning. A subsequent experiment demonstrated that nicotine withdrawal did not disrupt recall of contextual or cued fear conditioning when acquisition occurred before nicotine withdrawal. These data suggest that nicotine withdrawal disrupts new contextual learning, but does not alter contextual learning that occurred before withdrawal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-123
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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