Nicotine-associated memories as enhancers of alcohol consumption.
Alcohol and nicotine are the two most commonly abused substances. Heavy use of one of these substances can predict the subsequent use of the other. Like all drugs of abuse, alcohol and nicotine increase dopamine levels in the mesolimbic system which involved in reward processing, learning and memory. Rodent models of alcohol and nicotine co-administration suggest that nicotine can increase the reinforcing properties of alcohol. However, exposure to nicotine during adolescence was shown to increase subsequent self-administration of cocaine, amphetamine and nicotine, only when they were consumed in the same context of the nicotine administration. These findings led researches to suggest that nicotine-paired contextual cues, rather than nicotine itself, enhance subsequent drugs self-administration.
In my research, using a rat model of alcohol self-administration with nicotine pre-treatment, I aim to characterize the effect of nicotine-associated memories on alcohol consumption. In addition, by investigating transcriptomic changes in specific areas of the mesolimbic system during retrieval of nicotine-associating memories, I wish to elucidate the regulatory mechanism underling the behavioral effects.