BACKGROUND: This study determined if a within-session dose-reduction design sufficiently captures elasticity of demand for nicotine in male and female rats using environmental enrichment to manipulate demand elasticity.
METHODS: Male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to self-administer nicotine (60 μg/kg/infusion). In Experiment 1, rats began daily dose-reduction for nine sessions following acquisition. Rats then underwent a minimum of five within-session dose-reduction sessions where each dose was available for 10 min. In Experiment 2, rats were reared in isolated, social, or enriched housing followed by acquisition of nicotine self-administration. Rats then underwent within-session dose-reduction. Housing environments were then switched, followed by additional testing sessions. Consumption was calculated for each dose and exponential demand curves were fit.
RESULTS: No sex differences in acquisition of nicotine self-administration were detected for either experiment. In experiment 1, demand intensity (Q0; estimated intake if nicotine were freely available), was higher with between- compared to within-session dose-reduction, although elasticity of demand (α; rate of decline in nicotine intake as a function of increasing unit price), was lower. In Experiment 2, animals reared in enrichment had fewer infusions during acquisition compared to animals in isolation. Enriched males had reduced demand intensity compared to both isolated and social males, whereas isolated females had reduced intensity compared to enriched females.
CONCLUSIONS: The within-session dose-reduction procedure for nicotine self-administration replicated effects of environmental enrichment on consumption behaviors. Additionally, this procedure captured differences in nicotine demand due to sex, laying important groundwork for future translational research on mechanisms of nicotine dependence.