S. Tsiora, D. D. Potter, J. S. Kyle, A. M. Maxwell


2314-4327 (Print)2314-4327 (Linking)

Publication year



Psychiatry J

Periodical Number





Author Address

School of Psychology, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, UK.

Full version

Nicotine’s attention enhancing effects are often attributed to enhancement of stimulus filtering by the attention networks. We investigated distractibility in 20 abstinent cigarette smokers (9 hours overnight; phase 1) and tested them again after smoking one cigarette (phase 2). Their performance was compared to 20 nonsmokers (no nicotine intake). In an auditory number parity decision task, participants had to make a forced choice “odd” or “even” decision about centrally presented numbers between 2 and 9, while ignoring laterally presented preceding or simultaneous novel distractors. In phase 1, distractors that preceded goal stimuli slowed reaction times (RTs) more than simultaneously presented distractors in both groups. In phase 2, nicotine intake speeded RTs in smokers in all conditions and reduced RT variability for simple number decisions and simultaneous distractors. Overall, there was a nonsignificant trend for smokers to be less accurate than nonsmokers. Accuracy in the simultaneous distractor condition decreased in both groups in phase 2. We argue that the observed nicotine-induced improvements on behavioral performance primarily reflect enhancement of top-down control of attention.