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Physiol Behav. 2005 Jan 17;83(5):833-43. Epub 2004 Nov 23.

Effects of transdermal nicotine on prose memory and attention in smokers and nonsmokers.

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Department of Psychology, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND 58202-8380, USA.


Previous research investigating cognitive effects of nicotine has produced mixed findings partly due to the use of abstaining smokers and cigarettes as a delivery system. The present study examined effects of nicotine delivered via a transdermal patch on prose memory and sustained attention in male smokers (n=25) and nonsmokers (n=22), who were randomly assigned to either a placebo or a nicotine condition. All groups were matched on their verbal ability and gross personality characteristics (state/trait anxiety levels, extroversion-introversion, and impulsivity level). In the nicotine condition, smokers were treated with a 21-mg transdermal patch, while nonsmokers received a 7-mg nicotine patch. Six hours following patch application, their performance was assessed on a computerized prose memory task and the Rapid Visual Information Processing task (RVIP) in a counterbalanced order and double-blind fashion. The results demonstrated that smokers in the placebo group recalled a significantly greater number of propositions than their counterparts in the nicotine group. Nonsmokers in the nicotine condition also remembered significantly more of the prose material than smokers in the same condition and showed a trend towards better recall of propositions of medium importance in the nicotine condition in comparison to the nonsmokers in the placebo group. No between-group differences were found on the RVIP task. A significant effect of time was found for systolic blood pressure and heart rate. The results cannot be interpreted using the arousal theory of nicotine effects on attention and are explained on the basis of a dose-dependent nicotinic action possibly recruiting cholinergic cortical projections.

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