RATIONALE Nicotine has been shown to enhance some aspects of memory, attention and cognition in normal subjects and in some patient populations such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease groups. OBJECTIVES Memory disorders are consistently observed in schizophrenic patients, so it is of interest to determine whether nicotine might improve memory performance in these patients. METHODS Delayed recognition was assessed using yes/no recognition of visuospatial designs. Working memory was assessed in a delayed match-to-sample paradigm using unfamiliar faces. Nicotine (1.0 mg delivered via nasal spray) was administered to schizophrenic patients and normal volunteers prior to testing in the nicotine condition. Results were compared to a baseline condition in which no nicotine was given. RESULTS On both tasks, normal volunteers performed better overall than schizophrenic patients. Significant improvement following nicotine administration was obtained only on the delayed recognition task and only for the subset of schizophrenic patients who were smokers. This improvement reflected a reduction in false alarm rates in the nicotine condition; hit rates were unaffected by nicotine. CONCLUSIONS These results suggest that nicotine enhances delayed recognition memory in schizophrenic patients who smoke, but that similar performance enhancement is not observed for working memory.
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