Nicotine administration in humans is known to sharpen attention and to slightly enhance memory. Now scientists, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have identified those areas of the brain where nicotine exerts its effects on cognitive skills.
Their findings suggest that nicotine improves attention in smokers by enhancing activation in the posterior cortical and subcortical regions of the brain--areas traditionally associated with visual attention, arousal, and motor activation. This study provides the first evidence that nicotine-induced enhancement of parietal cortex activation is associated with improved attention.
The investigators used functional MRI to visualize nicotine’s effects on the brain during a rapid visual information-processing (RVIP) task -- a task that requires sustained attention and working memory. Fifteen smokers with and without a 21- mg transdermal nicotine patch performed the RVIP task while undergoing MRI screening. The subjects performed the RVIP task twice--once with a placebo patch and once with a nicotine patch--and were scanned during each session. They smoked their last cigarette 15 minutes before performing the RVIP task.
Michelle Person | EurekAlert!
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