Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #217
CE Offered: None

A Pavlovian Conditioning Approach to Studying Discriminative Stimulus Effects of Nicotine

Sunday, May 29, 2005
2:30 PM–3:20 PM
Lake Ontario (8th floor)
Area: BPH; Domain: Basic Research
CE Instructor: Amy Odum, Ph.D.
Chair: Amy Odum (Utah State University)
RICK ALLAN BEVINS (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
As an undergraduate student Dr. Rick Bevins received training in experimental analysis of behavior from Dr. Palya at Jacksonville State University. In 1989, with a B.S. in Psychology, he went to the Neuroscience and Behavior Ph.D. program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to work with Dr. Ayres. His research as a graduate student focused on associative learning processes in Pavlovian fear conditioning. In the last year of training Dr. Bevins became interested in pharmacology as a tool for understanding learning processes. Following this interest, he took a post-doctoral position in 1993 at the University of Kentucky with Dr. Bardo. There, Dr. Bevins received training in behavioral and neuropharmacology. He also discovered that learning processes involving drugs were in and of themselves an important and intellectually challenging research area. With this perspective, Dr. Bevins joined the Psychology Department faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1996. His current research program reflects a merging of this diverse training. The main empirical effort in the laboratory concerns behavioral and neuropharmacological factors affecting the ability of drug cues to acquire additional excitatory and/or modulatory control over behavior. Other effort focuses on the behavioral impact of novelty, conditioned environment-drug associations, and immunotherapies for nicotine addiction.

Most Pavlovian (classical) conditioning theories of nicotine addiction conceptualize the pharmacological effects of nicotine as an outcome or unconditional stimulus (US) that changes the incentive/motivational value of contiguous stimuli. Although preclinical and clinical laboratory studies have affirmed the potential role of these processes in the etiology of nicotine addiction, therapies targeting nicotine and its associated cues have not consistently outvied other forms of intervention in promoting long-term abstinence from smoking. This disconnect highlights the possibility that nicotine might be serving as more than a US. One possibility supported by recent preclinical research with rats from our laboratory is that nicotine appears to also serve as a conditional stimulus (CS). According to this view, nicotine as a CS acquires the ability to evoke a conditioned response by being reliably paired with an appetitive US. The present talk will describe this research characterizing nicotine as a CS, discuss some predictions (e.g., occasion setting, renewal) and implications of this conceptualization, and hopefully facilitate critical discussion on research exploring similarities and differences between nicotine in the role of a discriminative stimulus (SD) versus conditional stimulus.




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