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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2013 Jan;103(3):652-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2012.11.005. Epub 2012 Nov 15.

Rate dependent effects of acute nicotine on risk taking in young adults are not related to ADHD diagnosis.

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  • 1Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont, United States. ryank@mainehealth.org


Beneficial effects of nicotine on cognition and behavioral control are hypothesized to relate to the high rates of cigarette smoking in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Given that ADHD is associated with both impulsivity and elevated risk taking, we hypothesized that nicotine modulates risk taking, as it does impulsivity. 26 non-smoking young adults (15 controls with normal impulsivity and 11 ADHD with high impulsivity) received 7 mg transdermal nicotine, 20mg oral mecamylamine, and placebo on separate days, followed by the Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART). Statistical analyses found no group differences in baseline risk taking. Reexamination of the data using a median split on baseline risk taking, to create high (HRT) and low (LRT) risk taking groups, revealed significant effects of nicotinic drugs that differed by group. Nicotine reduced risk taking in HRT and mecamylamine increased risk taking in LRT. This finding supports the hypothesis that nicotinic receptor function modulates risk taking broadly, beyond those with ADHD, and is consistent with rate dependent cholinergic modulation of other cognitive functions. Further, the results demonstrate that high impulsivity is separable from high risk taking in young adults with ADHD, supporting the utility of these differential behavioral phenotypes for neurobiological studies.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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