, Volume 108, Issue 4, pp 485–494 | Cite as

Effects of acute subcutaneous nicotine on attention, information processing and short-term memory in alzheimer's disease

  • G. M. M. Jones
  • B. J. Sahakian
  • R. Levy
  • D. M. Warburton
  • J. A. Gray
Original Investigations


This single-blind, placebo controlled study reports on the effects of administering three acute doses of nicotine (0.4, 0.6 and 0.8 mg) subcutaneously to a group of Alzheimer's disease (DAT) patients (n=22), young adult controls (n=24), and normal aged controls (n=24). The study extends our previous findings obtained using smaller groups of subjects. Drug effects were examined on three computerised tests: the first measuring rapid visual information processing, sustained visual attention and reaction time (RVIP task); a delayed response matching to location-order task measuring sustained visual attention and visual short-term memory (DRMLO task); and a finger tapping test measuring simple reaction time (FT task). The critical flicker fusion test (CFF) was used as a measure of perception and the WAIS digit span forwards (DS), of auditory short-term memory. Tests were graded in difficulty, titrated to avoid floor and ceiling effects so that meaningful, direct comparisons between groups could be made. Nicotine significantly improved sustained visual attention (in both RVIP and DRMLO tasks), reaction time (in both FT and RVIP tasks), and perception (CFF task — both ascending and descending thresholds). Nicotine administration did not improve auditory and visual short-term memory. There were no consistent, overall patterns of difference in performance between smokers and non-smokers in the control groups, or between males and females in any group. Despite the absence of change in memory functioning, these results demonstrate that DAT patients have significant perceptual and visual attention deficits which are improved by nicotine administration. The importance of measuring multiple abilities in future drug studies is emphasized and results are discussed in terms of nicotine's actions on attention, information processing and short-term memory.

Key words

Nicotine Alzheimer's disease Attention Information processing Short-term memory 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. M. M. Jones
    • 1
    • 2
  • B. J. Sahakian
    • 4
  • R. Levy
    • 1
  • D. M. Warburton
    • 3
  • J. A. Gray
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatrySection of Old Age PsychiatryLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyInstitute of PsychiatryLondonUK
  3. 3.Human Psychopharmacology Group, Department of PsychologyUniversity of Reading, Earley GateReadingUK
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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