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Varenicline rescues nicotine-induced decrease in motivation for sucrose reinforcement

By Erin Hart, Daniel Hertia, Scott T Barrett, Sergios Charntikov

Posted 04 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.03.129791 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2020.112887)

Varenicline is one of the top medications used for smoking cessation and is often prescribed before termination of nicotine use. The effect of this combined nicotine and varenicline use on the reward system and motivation for primary reinforcement is underexplored. The goal of this study was to assess the effects of nicotine and varenicline on the consumption of sucrose. In Experiment 1, we first assessed the responding for sucrose after pretreatment with nicotine (0, 0.1, or 0.4 mg/kg) and varenicline (0.0, 0.1, 1.0 mg/kg) using a behavioral economics approach. The responding for sucrose was then assessed using a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement after pretreatment with all possible combinations of nicotine and varenicline doses. In Experiment 2, rats were assessed for the consumption of sucrose in home cages after pretreatment with nicotine and varenicline. We found that a) nicotine decreased economic demand for sucrose, b) varenicline rescued nicotine-induced reduction in economic demand for sucrose, and c) history of varenicline treatment predicted responding for sucrose on a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement where rats with a history of varenicline treatment responded significantly lower for sucrose across nicotine doses than rats that have not being exposed to varenicline. The results of Experiment 2 largely confirmed that nicotine decreases motivation for sucrose using a passive consumption protocol and that varenicline rescues this effect. Overall, these findings suggest that varenicline interacts with the effects of nicotine by restoring nicotine-induced reduction in motivation for appetitive rewards. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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