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Translating the smoking cessation properties of the antidepressant nortriptyline using reinforcing, discriminative and aversive stimulus effects of nicotine in rats

Lookup NU author(s): Victoria Wing, Dr Mohammed Shoaib


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The antidepressant nortriptyline is a second-line pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation. Given that there is limited preclinical data available on the effects of nortriptyline on responses to nicotine, the present study sought to evaluate its effects on the reinforcing, discriminative stimulus (DS) and aversive effects of nicotine in male hooded Lister rats. The effects of nortriptyline (0, 1, 3 and 10 mg/kg, i.p.) on responding under the control of a second order schedule of nicotine (0.03 mg/kg per infusion) intravenous self-administration (IVSA; n = 7), food-maintained responding (n = 6), discrimination of nicotine (0.2 mg/kg, s.c.) from saline in a two-lever procedure controlled by a fixed ratio and variable interval schedule of food reinforcement (n = 12) and on the development of nicotine- and lithium-induced conditioned taste aversions (CTA) (n = 8 per dose of nortriptyline) were examined. Nortriptyline (3 mg/kg) reduced responding for nicotine in the drug-free interval in which behaviour was supported by nicotine-associated cues and subsequent intervals in which nicotine was available; however, food-maintained responding was also reduced at the same dose. Nortriptyline (3 mg/kg) blocked the development of a nicotine-induced CTA but not a lithium-induced CTA, indicating that these effects are unlikely to be due to non-specific effects of nortriptyline on taste perception or learning. Lastly, nortriptyline had no effect on the DS properties of nicotine. Nortriptyline appears to attenuate the reinforcing and aversive stimulus properties of nicotine, which may mediate its anti-smoking effects. However, the results should be interpreted with caution, as non-specific effects of nortriptyline may have contributed to these findings.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wing VC, Shoaib M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Psychopharmacology

Year: 2012

Volume: 219

Issue: 3

Pages: 847-857

Print publication date: 19/07/2011

ISSN (print): 0033-3158

ISSN (electronic): 1432-2072

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00213-011-2413-2


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