Nicotine reduces antisaccade errors in task impaired schizophrenic subjects

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2004 May;28(3):505-16. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2004.01.002.


Nicotine and/or smoking have been shown to reduce various cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia. Here, we examine the effects of nicotine gum on repeated performance on a simple eye movement task. Eight schizophrenic subjects and eight controls participated in three days of testing on saccade (S) and antisaccade (AS) tasks. On each testing day, subjects participated in four testing sessions and received both of two nicotine gum treatments (4 and 6 mg) and both of two control conditions (placebo gum and no gum), each followed by a recovery period. Overall, schizophrenics showed significant impairments on the AS task. However, upon individual examination only four schizophrenics showed significant differences in AS errors or reaction times (RTs) when compared to controls. The other four schizophrenic subjects showed control level performance. All schizophrenic subjects showed normal and better than control level performance on the simple S task. Furthermore, no effects of nicotine were seen on the simple S task. There were significant treatment effects on the AS task. Nicotine treatment significantly decreased errors in the task impaired schizophrenic group and this effect was most pronounced at the 6 mg level. No nicotine effects were demonstrated for non-impaired schizophrenic subjects or controls. This study demonstrates a benefit of short exposure to nicotine in cognitively impaired schizophrenic subjects. These results support previous findings of cognitive benefits of nicotine in schizophrenics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Pursuit, Smooth / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotine