Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Harry Prapavessis


Nicotine, an alkaloid found in tobacco leaves, has been used by humans for its psychoactive properties for centuries. Specifically, nicotine has been consistently shown to improve cognitive performance (Heishman, Kleykamp, & Singleton, 2010). Similar effects also have been shown with exercise (Chang, Labban, Gapin, & Etnier, 2012). The purpose of the present study was to examine whether a 20 min bout of moderate-intensity exercise enhances cognitive performance (working memory) as effectively as 4 mg of NICORETTE® gum in a non-smoker population. Twenty-three non-smokers (M age = 25.87; 13 female) underwent a three-week randomized counterbalanced procedure. The N-Back Task was used to measure working memory after administration of nicotine or exercise. Findings showed significant improvements in reaction time after both treatments. However, accuracy significantly improved only for exercise. The author recommends exercise over nicotine as a safe and effective strategy for non-smokers to enhance cognitive performance. Implications for future studies are discussed.