It is already known that nicotine enhances our ability to think, perform and take tests. Now, according to scientists, it increases our memory function, too.
Up to now, results about nicotine's effects on boosting human performance were mixed.
According to Dr. Stephen Heishman, a scientist with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (part of the National Institutes of Health), in the past, researchers kept doing studies on the effects of nicotine and human performance without taking into account the drug's harsh withdrawal effects.
Instead, they'd ask study volunteers to go eight or 12 hours without smoking before testing their brain functions. As per Stephen it wasn't surprising that as soon as nicotine was administered in those cases, performance improved.
"Without knowing what their baseline level of performance is, you can't really say whether that increase is a true increase or whether you're just bringing that person back to their baseline," Heishman told Discovery News. "Those early studies didn't provide the pre-deprivation performance, [as in], what's their performance when they're normally smoking?"
Therefore, Heishman and colleagues studied all the literature they could find on nicotine and performance published between 1994 and 2008.
Their results were published online in the journal Psychopharmacology.
"We knew that the effect on attention was well known, but I was somewhat surprised about the effects on memory," Heishman said.
"Smokers say that one of the reasons that they smoke is to help them concentrate, focus on tasks and do their work, and obviously a lot of our daily work involves memory. So on the other hand, I guess it shouldn't be too surprising."