The Effects of Nicotine on Attention and Working Memory in Never-Smokers


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Abstract

The subjective and physiological effects of nicotine in nicotine-naïve individuals are consistent across studies, though the cognitive effects are variable: Positive, negative, or no effects have been reported. Assessing specific cognitive processes (e.g., alerting, orienting, executive function, and phonological and visuospatial working memory) may help reduce this variability. This within-subject study (N = 20) was designed to assess the effect of nicotine gum (0, 2, or 4 mg) on subjective, physiological, and cognitive measures. Dose-dependent increases in dysphoria and heart rate were observed, though nicotine did not influence any aspect of attention or working memory. Future studies should take into account the difference in effect sizes for cognitive versus physiological/subjective measures and maximize power (e.g., increase sample size) accordingly.

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