Acute administration of nicotine does not enhance cognitive functions
Chronic smokers often claim that smoking improves their cognitive abilities, such as concentration. However, scientific evidence to support this claim is scarce. Previous studies gave inconclusive results, and some of them had significant methodological flaws. Therefore, the aim of this study was to test whether smoking a single cigarette affects performance across several cognitive domains. It included a group of 22 occasional smokers aged 19–29 years. Attention, working memory, and visuospatial reasoning were assessed using a within-subjects design with a control setting. There were two separate testing sessions two days apart. Half the group started with experimental and the other half with control setting. In the experimental setting, the participants completed the first block of tasks, smoked one cigarette (with a nicotine yield of 0.5 mg), and then completed the second block of tasks. In the control setting, the procedure was the same, except that the participants had a glass of water instead of a cigarette. Repeated measures ANOVA showed no significant effects of cigarette smoking on either reaction time rates or accuracy on any of the three cognitive domains. These results suggest that, at least among young, occasional smokers, smoking does not affect cognition and the claims of its improvement are probably a result of some sort of cognitive bias.