Cognitive performance effects of subcutaneous nicotine in smokers and never-smokers

Jonathan Foulds, John Stapleton, John Swettenham, Nicholas Bell, Kevin McSorley, Michael A.H. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


In a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study the effects of two doses of subcutaneous nicotine and saline were compared on a range of performance measures in 18 abstaining smokers and is never-smokers. Each subject received two injections (40 min apart) of saline, 0.3 mg nicotine, or 0.6 mg nicotine in a balanced order over three sessions. Performance was assessed before and after the injections on nine tests [news recall, Sternberg memory task, finger tapping, logical reasoning, rapid visual information processing (RVIP), long-term word recognition, digit recall, Stroop test, and critical flicker fusion threshold]. In the abstinent smokers, nicotine produced significantly faster correct responses on the logical reasoning test, more target hits, faster reaction times and improved sensitivity on the RVIP task, and more correct responses on word recognition. In never-smokers, nicotine produced faster reaction times on the RVIP and digit-recall tasks, although in the latter case this was at the expense of fewer correct responses. There were no significant differences between the two groups' responses to nicotine but smokers performed worse than never-smokers prior to injections, even controlling for background characteristics. These results are consistent with other recent research suggesting a primary effect of nicotine in enhancing cognitive performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology


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