Discrimination of agonist-antagonist mixtures: experiments with nicotine plus mecamylamine

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Discrimination of a mixture of an agonist plus an antagonist has been analysed by training rats to discriminate ( – (-nicotine (0.32 mg/kg s.c.) from saline; in different groups of rats (n = 8), nicotine was administered either alone or in combination with the non-competitive nicotine antagonist mecamylamine (0.1–0.8 mg/kg s.c). Rats were trained in a two-bar operant conditioning procedure with a tandem schedule of food reinforcement. After 50 sessions, rats trained with nicotine alone had acquired the discrimination with an accuracy of about 85%. In combination, mecamylamine blocked accuracy during acquisition in a dose-related manner. In generalization tests, rats trained with nicotine alone yielded a typical dose-response curve for nicotine (ED50, = 0.082 mg/kg), without depression of response rate. In rats trained with nicotine plus 0.2 mg/kg of mecamylamine, the ED50 for the discriminative effect of nicotine was lowered (ED50 = 0.036 mg/kg), again without depression of response rate. In rats trained with nicotine plus 0.4–0.8 mg/kg of mecamylamine, nicotine did not acquire stimulus control over behaviour (flat dose-response relationships), but in these animals, nicotine had a pronounced response rate-decreasing effect. These characteristics of discriminations based on nicotine plus mecamylamine differed substantially from those of previously described discriminations of nicotine plus midazolam, supporting the hypothesis that interactions between the latter drugs were based on a behavioural mechanism (overshadowing) rather than on interactions at the level of receptors

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