Prior chronic nicotine impairs cued fear extinction but enhances contextual fear conditioning in rats.Neuroscience. 2008 Jun 02; 153(4):935-43.N
Clinical observations have shown a link for the high comorbid rate between smoking and psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorders. However, little is known about the neural mechanism underlying the progression from nicotine dependence to an anxiety disorder. A deficit in fear extinction in general is considered to contribute to anxiety disorders. The aim of the present study is to investigate the effects of chronic nicotine on fear extinction in rats. Rats were administrated s.c. nicotine twice per day for 14 days. Two weeks after the last injection rats received a cued or contextual fear conditioning session. Twenty-four hours and 48 h after conditioning, rats received an extinction training session and an extinction test session, respectively. Percent freezing was assessed during all phases of training. In the cued task, prior chronic nicotine did not affect the acquisition of fear response or the within-session fear extinction, but impaired the between-session fear extinction. In the contextual task, the same nicotine treatment schedule did not affect the acquisition of fear response or the within- and between-session fear extinction, but enhanced the retention of fear conditioning. This prior chronic nicotine-induced deficit in cued fear extinction and/or enhanced fear to context may be one of the critical components that contribute to the progression from nicotine dependence to an anxiety disorder.