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Transdermal nicotine effects on attention

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Nicotine has been shown to improve attentiveness in smokers and attenuate attentional deficits in Alzheimer’s disease patients, schizophrenics and adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The current study was conducted to determine whether nicotine administered via transdermal patches would improve attentiveness in non-smoking adults without attentional deficits. The subjects underwent the nicotine and placebo exposure in a counterbalanced double-blind manner. Measures of treatment effect included the Profile of Mood States (POMS), Conners’ computerized Continuous Performance Test (CPT) of attentiveness and a computerized interval-timing task. The subjects were administered a 7 mg/day nicotine transdermal patch for 4.5 h during a morning session. Nicotine significantly increased self-perceived vigor as measured by the POMS test. On the CPT, nicotine significantly decreased the number of errors of omission without causing increases in either errors of commission or correct hit reaction time. Nicotine also significantly decreased the variance of hit reaction time and the composite measure of attentiveness. This study shows that, in addition to reducing attentional impairment, nicotine administered via transdermal patches can improve attentiveness in normal adult nonsmokers.

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Received: 11 June 1997/Final version: 13 March 1998

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Levin, E., Conners, C., Silva, D. et al. Transdermal nicotine effects on attention. Psychopharmacology 140, 135–141 (1998).

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