Nicotinic systems and cognitive function

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1992;108(4):417-31. doi: 10.1007/BF02247415.


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors have been found to be important for maintaining optimal performance on a variety of cognitive tasks. In humans, nicotine-induced improvement of rapid information processing is particularly well documented. In experimental animals nicotine has been found to improve learning and memory on a variety of tasks, while the nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine has been found to impair memory performance. Nicotine has been found to be effective in attenuating memory deficits resulting from lesions of the septohippocampal pathway or aging in experimental animals. Nicotinic receptors are decreased in the cortex of patients with Alzheimer's disease. Preliminary studies have found that some aspects of the cognitive deficit in Alzheimer's disease can be attenuated by nicotine. Nicotine may prove to be useful therapeutic treatment for this and other types of dementia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / physiology
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine