, Volume 205, Issue 4, pp 625–633 | Cite as

Effects of nicotine on novelty detection and memory recognition performance: double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of smokers and nonsmokers

  • Brett FroeligerEmail author
  • David G. Gilbert
  • F. Joseph McClernon
Original Investigation



Dependent smokers exhibit deficits in attentional and memory processes when smoking abstinent as compared to when satiated. While nicotine replacement therapy improves attention during abstinence, it is unclear whether this is due to the alleviation of withdrawal-related deficits or inherent beneficial effects of nicotine.


The primary aim of these studies was to test whether nicotine exerts a beneficial effect on novelty detection and whether such effects occur in nonsmokers as well as habitual smokers.

Materials and methods

In two parallel, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, 24 smokers (study 1) and 24 nonsmokers (study 2) were tested in two counterbalanced sessions: once while wearing a nicotine patch (smokers = 14 mg; nonsmokers = 7 mg) and once while wearing a placebo patch. On each day, participants performed three content-specific oddball tasks (perceptual, semantic, and emotional) that required them to press a button whenever they saw a novel target (20% of stimuli) embedded in a stream of common nontarget stimuli (80% of stimuli). Recognition memory for targets was subsequently tested. Reports of mood, smoking withdrawal, patch side effects, and blind success were collected in each session.


Among smokers, compared to placebo, nicotine decreased target reaction time during all oddball tasks. Among nonsmokers, nicotine increased target detection accuracy and subsequent memory recognition. Nicotine’s enhancement on each respective measure was not task-content specific in either sample.


These data suggest that acute nicotine administration may exert direct beneficial effects on novelty detection and subsequent memory recognition in both smokers and nonsmokers. Moreover, these effects are not content-specific.


Nicotine Smoking Nonsmoker Smoker Novelty Memory Cognition Dopaminergic Human 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brett Froeliger
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David G. Gilbert
    • 2
  • F. Joseph McClernon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentSouthern Illinois University—CarbondaleCarbondaleUSA

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