Transdermal nicotine modulates strategy-based attentional semantic processing in non-smokers

Anna D. Holmes, Helen J. Chenery, David A. Copland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Nicotine has been shown to improve various aspects of cognitive processing such as attention and memory, however, its effects on lexical-semantic processing are relatively uncharted. Recent investigations of mnemonic processing in minimally deprived smokers suggest that nicotine might selectively modulate processes concerned with associative memory. This study investigated the effects of nicotine on lexical-semantic processing in non-smokers using a strategy-based lexical-decision priming paradigm. Transdermal nicotine patches (7 mg/24 h) were administered within a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over design. Participants were trained to expect target words to come from a specified semantic category based on the prime word, although in some instances trained expectations were not met. Participants were presented with the stimuli at either a short or long stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) to target automatic and attentional processing, respectively (n=12 and 17 for the short and long SOAs, respectively). Nicotine was found to selectively affect priming condition reaction times at the long SOA, indicating a nicotinic modulation of attentional mechanisms. Specifically, facilitation effects were dominant under placebo compared to a dominance of inhibition effects under nicotine. These results suggest that nicotine supports inhibitory attentional mechanisms in cognitively demanding semantic processing paradigms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-399
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes


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