Nicotine gum enhances visual processing in healthy nonsmokers

Brain Imaging Behav. 2021 Oct;15(5):2593-2605. doi: 10.1007/s11682-021-00461-4. Epub 2021 Mar 6.


Objective: The main purpose of this study was to investigate the isolated effects of nicotine on visual processing, namely contrast processing.

Methods: Thirteen participants, aged 18-40 years, were enrolled in this double blind, randomized and pilot controlled trial involving nicotine gum administration (placebo, 2-mg and 4-mg doses). The participants' instruction was to detect the location of vertical gratings (0.2; 1.0; 3.3; 5.7; 8.8; 13.2 and 15.9 cycles per degree) when it was presented either left or right on the monitor screen. A repeated multivariate analysis of variance was conducted to analyse the results for the visual processing tasks. Bayesian analyses were also carried out considering maximum robustness to avoid bias.

Results: The findings that nicotine gum administration resulted in better contrast discrimination when compared to placebo gum (p < .001). More specifically, the 4-mg resulted in better visual sensitivity when compared to the 2-mg (p < .01) and the placebo (p < .001) gum. Demographic data were not related to the outcomes.

Conclusions: These data bring the need for support the findings. If proved, it is possible that nicotine, in small doses, can have a potential therapeutic use for those populations with low vision.

Trial registration number: RBR-46tjy3.

Keywords: Addiction research; Contrast sensitivity; Nicotine; Physiology; Visual processing.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nicotine*
  • Non-Smokers
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Visual Perception


  • Nicotine