Nicotine effects on general semantic priming in Parkinson's Disease

Anna D. Holmes*, David A. Copland, Peter A. Silburn, Helen J. Chenery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In young healthy nonsmokers, effects of nicotine on semantic processing have been observed under strategy-based priming procedures but not under more general priming procedures (Holmes, Chenery, & Copland, 2008; Holmes, Chenery, & Copland, 2010). Effects of nicotine under general priming procedures, however, may be mediated by baseline priming levels that are below optimum such as when compromised by disease. Nicotinic mechanisms may be involved in the cognitive sequalae of Parkinson's disease (PD). Evidence suggests that semantic processing may be compromised in PD but the potential benefit of nicotinic stimulation is unknown. This study investigated the effects of nicotine on semantic processing in nonsmokers with PD (n = 12) and nonsmoking matched controls (n = 17) using general priming procedures. Specifically, an automatic priming task (0.15 relatedness proportion, RP, and 200 ms stimulus onset asynchrony, SOA) and a controlled priming task (0.8 RP and 1000 ms SOA) were used. Prime-target category relation (category related, noncategory related) was also manipulated. Transdermal nicotine patches (7 mg/24 h) were administered in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design. For the automatic task, nicotine did not influence priming effects for PD. Unexpectedly, compromised automatic priming for controls was ameliorated. For the controlled task, nicotine influenced priming effects for PD but not controls. The patterns of priming and nicotine effects across the tasks suggest an age-related slowing of the rate of semantic activation for controls, which may be exacerbated in PD. Overall, the findings indicate that nicotine can improve compromised semantic processing in PD, and also influence semantic processing in healthy older individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-223
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


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