Nicotine withdrawal is associated with diminished attentional cognitive processing, and nicotine administration is associated with increased attentional cognitive processing. Given that the normal aging process is associated with declines in attentional control, we propose that nicotine derived from smoking among older populations acutely ameliorates the decline in attentional control associated with aging. Thus, older individuals might find smoking more reinforcing for cognitive-attentional reasons. The role of nicotine-induced cognitive-attentional enhancement as a function of age has not yet been systematically investigated. The primary aim of the proposed research is to examine effects of nicotine satiation versus withdrawal on cognitive-attentional performance among heavy smokers as a function of the normal aging process. Younger (21 to 40 years old) and older (51 to 70 years old) smokers will be compared on an executive attention working memory task (N-back) during two laboratory sessions, following either ad lib smoking or overnight nicotine deprivation. Data analyses will focus on event- related brain potential (ERP) activity during the working memory task, as well as behavioral responses. We hypothesize that attentional control will be diminished during nicotine withdrawal, this effect will be greater among older smokers, and that this effect will be greater with increasing task difficulty.
The proposed study will improve our understanding of the role of attentional cognitive processing in smoking behavior across the lifespan. Findings from this research may lead to the development of targeted behavioral and pharmacological treatments for older smokers.
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