Although antipsychotic drugs are therapeutically effective in attenuating the hallmark symptoms of schizophrenia, these improvements do not return most patients to normative standards of cognitive function. Thus, complementary drug treatment may be needed to treat the attentional deficits of schizophrenia as well as to counteract the potential attentional impairments caused by some antipsychotic drugs. Nicotine, a drug commonly self-administered by a great majority of individuals with schizophrenia, has been shown to significantly improve cognitive function in some studies. The current study was conducted to determine the interactive effects of the atypical antipsychotic drugs clozapine and risperidone with chronic nicotine administration on attentional performance. Adult female Sprague-Dawley rats (N=35) were trained to perform an attentional task using an operant visual signal detection task. After training, rats were infused with a dose of 5 mg/kg/day (s.c.) nicotine base (n=18) or saline (n=17) for 28 consecutive days via osmotic pump. In Exp. 1, while being administered chronic nicotine or saline, rats were given acute doses of clozapine (0, 0.625, 1.25 and 2.5 mg/kg, s.c.) and were tested for attentional function. In Exp. 2, while on chronic nicotine or saline, other rats were challenged with acute doses of risperidone (0, 0.025, 0.05 and 0.1 mg/kg, s.c.) and were tested for attentional function. Results showed that acute administration of clozapine caused a significant dose-dependent impairment in choice accuracy (percent hit) in animals treated with chronic saline. Chronic nicotine treatment itself lowered accuracy, but attenuated further declines with acute clozapine treatment. Acute administration of risperidone at high dose significantly reduced performance (percent correct rejection) in chronically saline-treated rats, but in a similar fashion as in Exp. 1, chronic nicotine lowered accuracy but attenuated further impairment with acute risperidone. In summary, atypical antipsychotic drugs clozapine and risperidone significantly impaired choice accuracy in the visual signal detection task. Clozapine was more detrimental than risperidone but the adverse effects of both clozapine and risperidone on attentional performance were masked in rats chronically treated with nicotine.