Persistence of chronic nicotine-induced cognitive facilitation

Behav Neural Biol. 1992 Sep;58(2):152-8. doi: 10.1016/0163-1047(92)90399-o.


Nicotine has been found in a variety of species and behavioral paradigms to improve memory performance. The beneficial effect of nicotine has been seen after both acute and chronic administration. Interestingly, improved performance has been seen 24 h after acute injection and for at least 2 weeks after chronic administration. However, it is not clear from previous studies whether the persistence of the improved performance represents a true carryover of the drug effect or is due to the behavioral experience while under nicotine's effect. The current study was conducted to determine whether the facilitating effect of nicotine on learning and memory performance could be seen after withdrawal even if there was no behavioral training during the period of chronic nicotine administration. Rats were administered nicotine chronically for 3 weeks but were not tested during that time. Starting 1 week after withdrawal they were trained on a working memory paradigm in an eight-arm radial maze. The nicotine-treated rats started out at control-like levels of performance, but showed significantly faster learning as detected by three different measures of choice accuracy. By the final phase of testing the control subjects had caught up with the nicotine-treated rats. After the acquisition phase, acute challenges with the nicotinic and muscarinic antagonists, mecamylamine and scopolamine, did not elicit any differential effects in the nicotine-treated and control groups. The current study demonstrated that nicotine-induced cognitive facilitation persists for at least 4 weeks after withdrawal and does not depend upon behavioral test experience under the influence of the drug. The mechanism for this persisting effect is not currently understood.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Nicotine