Effects of mecamylamine on spontaneous EEG and performance in smokers and non-smokers

Wallace B. Pickworth, Reginald V. Fant, Marsha F. Butschky, Jack E. Henningfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


In a previous study, mecamylamine, a centrally active nicotine antagonist, exacerbated EEG signs of tobacco abstinence in abstinent smokers. In the present study, the effects of mecamylamine were compared in non-smokers and nondeprived smokers. Mecamylamine (0, 5 and 10 mg, p.o.) was administered to six smokers and six non-smokers; eight of these subjects were also given a 20 mg dose. Before drug administration, resting EEG was similar in both groups. In both groups, mecamylamine caused dose-related decreases in alpha frequency and increases in delta frequency; beta frequency was increased by the 5 and 10 mg doses. The similarity of effects in smokers and non-smokers suggests a direct pharmacological action rather than precipitated nicotine withdrawal. Significant baseline differences existed between smokers and nonsmokers in systolic blood pressure, pulse rate, skin temperature and pupil diameter. Response time slowed in both vigilance and distractibility tasks and delayed recall was impaired. Mecamylamine increased ratings of: 'relaxed, 'nodding, 'sleepy' and 'coasting.' This small-sample study tentatively suggests that nicotinic cholinergic mechanisms modulate brain electrical activity and cognitive function in smokers and non-smokers. Disruption of these neural systems could mediate the symptoms of tobacco withdrawal and be involved in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-187
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • EEG
  • cognition
  • mecamylamine
  • nicotine
  • performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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