Re: Nicotine as a smart drug (was: Re: MED: Smoking writer needs hel

Anders Sandberg (
21 Mar 1999 17:23:27 +0100

"Nick Bostrom" <> writes:

> I would recommend that your mother tries nicotine chewing gum. In
> contrast to the "suicide pins", chewing gum is extremely safe while
> having a similar neurological effect.

Yes, and the addiction potential seems lower due to the slower onset. Overall, it is sad that our most common and successful nootropic is usually taken in a form that has so many big health drawbacks as smoking.

> There is some evidence that nicotine improves performance on complex
> cognitive tasks (also in non-smokers).

I have collected a number of papers (see below) about it, and there are good evidence that nicotine has effects on attention and likely indirectly on memory. Non-smokers may need to adapt a bit before they get the benefits, nicotine unfortunately causes nausea and other physiological reactions at first.

As for the creativity effects, it might be more due to stopping than the nicotine itself. The mother of a friend reported similar problems as Proclus' mother when she stopped smoking, a big creative block. My guess is that the disruption of attention and other cholinergic systems caused by stopping interfered with the creative process on a fairly deep level.


author = {E. D. Levin and B. B. Simon}, title = {Nicotinic acetylcholine involvement in cognitive function in animals}, journal = {Psychopharmacology (Berl)}, volume = {138},
number = {3-4},
pages = {217--30},
month = aug,
year = {1998},
keywords = {Acetylcholine/*physiology/therapeutic use Animal Attention/drug effects Cognition/drug effects/*physiology Human Memory/drug effects Nicotinic Agonists/pharmacology/therapeutic use Receptors, Neurotransmitter/drug effects Receptors, Nicotinic/drug effects/*metabolism}, abstract = {Nicotinic cholinergic systems are involved with several important aspects of cognitive function including attention, learning and memory. Nicotinic cholinergic receptors are located in many regions of the brain, including areas important for cognitive function such as the hippocampus and frontal cortex. Nicotinic agonists have been found in rodent and non-human primate studies to improve performance on a variety of memory tasks. In a complementary fashion, nicotinic antagonists such as mecamylamine impair working memory function. In humans, similar effects have been seen. Nicotinic agonist treatment can improve attention, learning and memory and nicotinic antagonist treatment can cause deficits. To define the neural substrates of nicotinic involvement in cognitive function, three areas of investigation are underway. 1) Critical neuroanatomic loci for nicotinic effects are beginning to be determined. The hippocampus, frontal cortex and midbrain dopaminergic nuclei have been found to be important sites of action for nicotinic involvement in memory function. 2) Nicotinic receptor subtype involvement in cognitive function is being studied. There has been considerable recent work identifying nicotinic receptor subunit conformation including alpha and beta subunits. Nicotinic receptor subtypes appear to be associated with different functional systems; however, much remains to be done to determine the precise role each subtype plays in terms of cognitive function. 3) Nicotinic interactions with other transmitter systems are being assessed. Nicotine receptors interact in important ways with other systems to affect cognitive functioning, including muscarinic ACh, dopamine, norepinepherine, serotonin, glutamate, and other systems. Nicotinic function in clinical populations and potential for therapeutics has been investigated for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Areas which need to receive greater attention are the exact anatomical location and the specific receptor subtypes critically involved in nicotine's effects. In addition, more work needs to be done to develop and determine the efficacy and safety of novel nicotinic ligands for use in the long-term treatment of human cognitive disorders.} }


author = {E. D. Levin and C. K. Conners and D. Silva and S. C. Hinton and W. H. Meck and J. March and J. E. Rose}, title = {Transdermal nicotine effects on attention [In Process Citation]}, journal = {Psychopharmacology (Berl)}, volume = {140},
number = {2},
pages = {135--41},
month = nov,
year = {1998},
abstract = {Nicotine has been shown to improve attentiveness in smokers and attenuate attentional deficits in Alzheimer's disease patients, schizophrenics and adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The current study was conducted to determine whether nicotine administered via transdermal patches would improve attentiveness in non- smoking adults without attentional deficits. The subjects underwent the nicotine and placebo exposure in a counterbalanced double-blind manner. Measures of treatment effect included the Profile of Mood States (POMS), Conners' computerized Continuous Performance Test (CPT) of attentiveness and a computerized interval-timing task. The subjects were administered a 7 mg/day nicotine transdermal patch for 4.5 h during a morning session. Nicotine significantly increased self- perceived vigor as measured by the POMS test. On the CPT, nicotine significantly decreased the number of errors of omission without causing increases in either errors of commission or correct hit reaction time. Nicotine also significantly decreased the variance of hit reaction time and the composite measure of attentiveness. This study shows that, in addition to reducing attentional impairment, nicotine administered via transdermal patches can improve attentiveness in normal adult non-smokers.} }


  author = 	 {Levin, Edward D. AND Briggs, Sandra J. AND Christopher, Nadine C. AND Rose, Jed E.},
  title = 	 {Persistence of Chronic Nicotine-Induced Cognitive Facilitation},
  journal = 	 {Behavioral and Neural Biology},
  year = 	 {1992},
  volume =	 58,
  pages =	 {152--158},

annote = {Rats were administered nicotine for 3 weeks but not tested during that time. 1 week after the administration the treated rats learned faster at a working memory task (radial maze)} }


  author = 	 {Rusted, Jennifer M. AND Warburton, David M.},
  title = 	 {Facilitation of memory by post-trial administration of nicotine: evidence for an attentional explanation},
  journal = 	 {Psychopharmacology},
  year = 	 {1992},
  volume =	 108,
  pages =	 {452--455},

annote = {In post-trial smoking humans free recall of lists were imporved, but not when they were distracted during smoking.} }


  author = 	 {Warburton, D.M. AND Rusted, J.M. AND Fowler, J.},
  title = 	 {A comparision of the attentional and consolidation hypotheses for the facilitation of memory by nicotine},
  journal = 	 {Psychopharmacology},
  year = 	 {1992},
  volume =	 108,
  pages =	 {443--447},

annote = {A comparision between the mnemonic and attentional hypothesises for nicotine facilitation of human memory. Likely it does it though enhancing attention.} }


  author = 	 {Levin, Edward D.},
  title = 	 {Nicotinic Systems and Cognitive Function},
  journal = 	 {Psychopharmacology},
  year = 	 {1992},
  volume =	 108,
  pages =	 {417-431},

annote = {Nicotine improves rapid information processing, learning and memory on many tasks. It attenuates memory deficits due to septohippocampal lesions or aging.} }


  author =	 {Houlihan, Michael E. AND Pritchard, Walter S. AND Robinson, John H.},
  title =	 {Effects on Smoking on Stimulus Evaluation and Response Selection},
  howpublished = {Presented at the meeting of the Psychophysiological Research in Toronto},
  year =	 1995,
  month =	 {October},

annote = {Nicotine improves accuracy but not P300 latency. Improvements in P300 latency was not accompanied by a decreace in reaction time. Nicotine does not appear to be involved at the level of response selection. } }


  author = 	 {Martin S. Mumenthaler AND Joy L. Taylor AND Ruth O'Hara AND Jerome A. Yesavage},
  title = 	 {Influence of nicotine on simulator flight performance in non-smokers},
  journal = 	 {Psychopharmacology},
  year = 	 1998,
  volume =	 140,
  pages =	 {38--41}

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y