Nicotine differentially modulates antisaccade performance in healthy male non-smoking volunteers stratified for low and high accuracy
Authors: Petrovsky N, Ettinger U, Quednow BB, Walter H, Schnell K, Kessler H, Mössner R, Maier W, Wagner M
CellNetworks People: Schnell Knut
Journal: Psychopharmacology (Berl).

Nicotinergic agents are currently examined as possible pro-cognitive drugs for a variety of clinical conditions marked by cognitive deficits, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or schizophrenia. The response to acute nicotine is heterogeneous across subjects and samples; however, only a few reliable predictors of response have been identified.
We tested the hypothesis that baseline performance level in cognitive control may be a predictor of the cognitive effects of nicotine.
We tested 28 healthy Caucasian, male, non-smoking volunteers with the antisaccade task, an oculomotor measure of cognitive control. Participants were given a 7-mg nicotine patch in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, counterbalanced, within-subjects design. Subjects were stratified into high and low performers based on their antisaccade error rate in the placebo condition (median split).
Nicotine tended to reduce response time variability of prosaccade latency (p = 0.06). There was no main effect of nicotine on antisaccade error rate (p = 0.31). However, nicotine significantly reduced antisaccade error rate in the low-accuracy probands while leaving performance of the high-accuracy probands unaffected (interaction, p < 0.05). Furthermore, we found a nicotine-induced reduction of response time variability of antisaccade latency at one target location in the low-performing group (interaction, p < 0.05).
The present results demonstrate the importance of baseline performance differences for the effectiveness of pharmacological enhancement of cognitive control. More generally, the results suggest that stimulation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor system might be an effective way of improving cognition in people with poor cognitive performance, such as patients with ADHD or schizophrenia.