Dose-related enhancement of mood and cognition in smokers administered nicotine nasal spray

Carol S. Myers, Richard C. Taylor, Eric T. Moolchan, Stephen J. Heishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


The discovery of the role of nicotinic receptors in attention and memory has led to the testing of nicotinic analogs as cognitive enhancing agents in patient populations. Empirical information about nicotine's ability to enhance elements of attention and memory in normal individuals might guide development of therapeutic uses of nicotine in cognitively impaired populations. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of nicotine on continuous attention, working memory, and computational processing in tobacco-deprived and nondeprived smokers. A total of 28 smokers (14 men, 14 women) participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject study, in which they were overnight (12 h) tobacco deprived at one session and smoked ad libitum before the other session. At each session, participants received 0, 1, and 2 mg nicotine via nasal spray in random order at 90 min intervals. Before and after each dose, a battery of cognitive, subjective, and physiological measures was administered, and blood samples were taken for plasma nicotine concentration. Overnight tobacco deprivation resulted in impaired functioning on all cognitive tests and increased self-reports of tobacco craving and negative mood; nicotine normalized these deficits. In the nondeprived condition, nicotine enhanced performance on the continuous performance test (CPT) and an arithmetic test in a dose-related manner, but had no effect on working memory. In general, women were more sensitive than men to the subjective effects of nicotine. These results provide an unequivocal determination that nicotine enhanced attentional and computational abilities in nondeprived smokers and suggest these cognitive domains as substrates for novel therapeutic indications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)588-598
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Information processing
  • Nicotine nasal spray
  • Performance
  • Plasma nicotine
  • Sustained attention
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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