Nicotine effects on alertness and spatial attention in non-smokers

William S. Griesar, Daniel P. Zajdel, Barry S. Oken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Nicotine reportedly improves covert orienting of spatial attention, but enhanced alertness may also play a role. The present study explored nicotine effects on measures of spatial attention and alertness in non-smokers. Nicotine was delivered to 17 non-smokers (data from 12 subjects were analyzed) by a 7-mg transdermal patch (one patch in a low-nicotine condition; two patches in a high-nicotine condition). We examined nicotine's effects on spatial attention using a covert orienting task with central, predictive cue stimuli. Nicotine effects on alertness were examined with EEG and subjective questionnaires. Blood was drawn and serum levels of nicotine are reported. Nicotine decreased overall reaction times in the covert orienting task. There was no change in the validity effect, the reaction time difference between validly and invalidly cued targets. However, nicotine significantly improved both EEG and self-rated measures of alertness. We conclude that nicotine increases alertness in non-smokers, but we found no improvement in spatial attention using a covert orienting task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-194
Number of pages10
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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