Working memory in cigarette smokers: Comparison to non-smokers and effects of abstinence

Adrianna Mendrek, John Monterosso, Sara L. Simon, Murray Jarvik, Arthur Brody, Richard Olmstead, Catherine P. Domier, Mark S. Cohen, Monique Ernst, Edythe D. London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


The present study was designed to examine the effect of cigarette smoking and withdrawal on working memory. Participants included 15 smokers and 22 matched non-smokers. For both groups the N-Back Task (of working memory) was administered in two test blocks on each of two days. On one day, smokers were tested after ≥ 13 h abstinence; on the other day, testing began ≤ 1 h after smoking. Smokers inhaled one cigarette between the blocks on each test day. Results indicated that performance of smokers after ≥ 13 h but not ≤ 1 h abstinence was significantly less accurate than that of non-smokers. A within-subject comparison revealed that in the abstinence session, smokers had significantly longer response latencies (in the 2-back condition) and made more overall errors compared to the satiety session. Smoking between test blocks in the abstinence session did not significantly affect performance although it significantly reduced craving. These findings provide further evidence for a deficit in working memory associated with acute abstinence from smoking, which may contribute to the difficulty of smoking cessation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)833-844
Number of pages12
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Craving
  • Nicotine
  • Withdrawal
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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