Rationale: In laboratory tasks nicotine has consistently been shown to improve psychomotor performance.
Objectives: The aim of the present experiment was to assess the effects of nicotine on a skilled task of everyday life in smoking and non-smoking healthy adults.
Methods: Assessment of handwriting movements of 38 non-deprived smokers and 38 non-smokers was performed following the chewing of gum containing 0 mg, 2 mg or 4 mg of nicotine. A digitising tablet was used for the assessment of fine motor movements. Subjects were asked to perform a simple writing task. Movement time, velocity and acceleration of the handwriting movements were measured. Furthermore, every writing specimen was independently rated by two examiners regarding the quality of handwriting.
Results: Kinematic analysis of writing movements revealed that nicotine could produce absolute improvements in handwriting. Following nicotine administration, reduced movement times, increased velocities and more fluent handwriting movements were observed. These improvements were more striking in smokers than in non-smokers. No effects of nicotine were found with regard to the quality of handwriting.
Conclusion: The results suggest that nicotine can enhance psychomotor performance to a significant degree in a real-life motor task.