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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2013 Jan;103(3):494-500. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2012.09.014. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

Effects of nicotine on electroencephalographic (EEG) and behavioural measures of visual working memory in non-smokers during a dual-task paradigm.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Research in smokers has shown that nicotine may have the ability to improve certain aspects of cognitive performance, including working memory and attention, processes which implicate frontal and frontal-parietal brain networks. There is limited research on the cognitive effects of nicotine and their associated neural underpinnings in non-smokers. This study examined the effects of acute nicotine on a working memory task alone or combined with a visual detection task (single- and dual-task conditions) using electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings and behavioural performance measures. Twenty non-smokers (13 females; 7 males) received nicotine gum (6 mg) in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, repeated measures design. Spectral EEG, together with response speed and accuracy measures, were obtained while participants completed a series of N-Back tasks under single- and dual-task conditions. Nicotine failed to exert any significant effects on performance measures, however, EEG changes were observed, primarily in frontal recordings, which varied with memory load, task condition and hemisphere. These findings, discussed in relation to previous studies in smokers, support the notion that nicotine may modulate central executive systems and contribute to smoking behaviour.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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