Original Investigation


, Volume 119, Issue 3, pp 305-310

First online:

Effects of nicotine on perceptual speed

  • C. StoughAffiliated withCognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory, The Medical School, University of Queensland
  • , G. ManganAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Auckland
  • , T. BatesAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Auckland
  • , B. KerkinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Auckland
  • , O. PellettAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Auckland
  • , N. FrankAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Adelaide

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Two experiments investigating the effects of nicotine on performance in the inspection time (IT) procedure are reported. Experiment 1 compared ITs in smoking (0.8 mg nicotine cigarette), sham-smoking, and no-smoking conditions. IT was significantly shorter in the smoking condition as compared to both the no-smoking or sham-smoking conditions, suggesting that nicotine enhances early information processing. This result is of particular interest because of the correlation between IT and IQ reported in previous experiments. The nicotine related decrease in IT raises the possibility that nicotine enhances at least a subset of the physiological processes underlying intellectual performance. Experiment 2 examined the persistence of this nicotine related enhancement in IT, and investigated the effects of nicotine across 480 IT trials. Results suggested that ITs derived from the last third of the 480 trials were significantly shorter in the 0.8 mg cigarette condition than in no-smoking condition. The results from these two experiments, taken together with recent work examining the effects of nicotine on the string length measure of AEP waveform complexity and Hick decision time (DT), and studies investigating cognitive functioning and cholinergic system dysfunction in dementia, suggest a role of the cholinergic system in intellectual performance.

Key words

Nicotine Perceptual speed Cholinergic system Humans