Effects of Nicotine on Areas of Impaired and Preserved Functioning in Schizophrenia

This study has been completed.
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier:
First received: December 16, 2009
Last updated: October 9, 2014
Last verified: June 2013


  • Some people with schizophrenia have problems with their working memory and paying attention for extended periods. These difficulties cannot be treated with antipsychotic medications or with many standard therapies.
  • The prevalence of cigarette smoking among individuals with schizophrenia is about three times higher than in the general population. Research has shown that nicotine, the addictive component found in cigarettes, can help improve attentional and working memory performance. Researchers are interested in learning more about whether there may be an overlap in the cognitive functions beneficially affected by nicotine and areas of dysfunction in individuals with schizophrenia.


  • To evaluate the potential of transdermal nicotine to alleviate cognitive deficits in schizophrenia, and to determine whether naturally maintained cigarette-smoking, in comparison, is an effective self-medication.
  • To gather preliminary data on genetics that may account for individual and group differences in the performance effects of nicotine.


- Current smokers (25 or more cigarettes per week for at least 1 year) between 18 and 55 years of age who are either healthy volunteers or have been diagnosed with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder.


  • The study will require five visits to the research center, with an initial screening visit, a training session, and three test sessions. Ideally, all visits will occur 1 week apart.
  • Training session: Participants will receive training on the types of computerized cognitive and attentional behavior tests that will be given during the active portion of the study. Participants will also fill out questionnaires on nicotine use and other alcohol and drug use.
  • Test sessions: Participants will be assigned to random groups and will complete tests that assess cognitive performance (a) while maintaining their usual smoking behavior, (b) after minimal deprivation (3.5 hours without smoking) while wearing a placebo patch, and (c) under the influence of a standard nicotine patch. The order of these sessions will be different for individual participants.
  • Participants will provide blood samples throughout the research study for evaluation purposes.

Nicotine Dependence

Study Type: Observational
Official Title: Effects of Nicotine on Areas of Impaired and Preserved Functioning in Schizophrenia

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Cognitive task performance

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Measures of subjective state plasma concentrations of nicotine and metabolites genoytype with regards to genes that may affect nicotine response.

Estimated Enrollment: 120
Study Start Date: June 2009
Estimated Study Completion Date: June 2013
Detailed Description:


  1. To evaluate the potential of transdermal nicotine to alleviate distinct cognitive deficits in schizophrenia, and to determine whether naturally maintained cigarette-smoking, in comparison, is an effective self-medication.
  2. To gather preliminary data on genotypes that may account for interindividual and group differences in the performance effects of nicotine.

Study population:

45 regular smokers with schizophrenia, 45 matched control smokers (greater than or equal to 5 cigarettes/day).


Double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject study, evaluating cognitive functions under conditions of normal smoking, transdermal nicotine (14 mg/day), and placebo (minimal tobacco deprivation).

Outcome measures:

Measures of cognitive task performance, measures of subjective state, plasma concentrations of nicotine and metabolites, and genotype with regards to genes coding for nicotinic receptor subunits, MAO, and COMT.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 55 Years
Genders Eligible for Study:   Both
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

All participants:

  1. Age 18 through 55. The aim is to minimize population inhomogeneity related to cognitive decline due to normal aging.
  2. Smoker of 5 or more cigarettes, cigarillos or cigars per day, on 5 or more days/week, for at least the last 12 months
  3. Normal or corrected to normal visual acuity (at least 20/100).

Participants with mental illness, additional inclusion criteria:

  1. DSM-IV diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder
  2. Ability to give written informed consent
  3. Four weeks of stable pharmacological treatment (same psychiatric medication at same dose)


All participants:

  1. History of myocardial infarction, heart failure, angina, stroke or severe arrhythmias, EKG abnormalities as specified under Screening methods
  2. Uncontrolled high blood pressure (resting systolic above 150 or diastolic above 90 mm Hg)
  3. Neurological conditions such as stroke, seizures, dementia or organic brain syndrome
  4. Any condition likely to impair cognitive function such as mental retardation, attention deficit disorder or severe pharmacological sedation
  5. Treatment for tobacco dependence in the last four months
  6. Alcohol or substance abuse or dependence other than nicotine within the last 12 months
  7. Pregnancy, verified by urine pregnancy test for females at first visit and in the beginning of each of the two patch administration sessions
  8. Lactating

    Healthy controls, additional exclusion criterion:

  9. Current psychiatric Axis I disorder or Axis II schizophrenia spectrum disorder, verified by Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID)

    Participants with mental illness, additional exclusion criterion:

  10. Treated with benztropine (a nicotinic and muscarinic antagonist) or with an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor currently or within the last four weeks
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01034085

United States, Maryland
Maryland Psychiatric Research Center (MPRC) 55 Wade Avenue
Catonsville, Maryland, United States, 21228
Sponsors and Collaborators
Principal Investigator: Elliot Stein, Ph.D. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  More Information

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01034085     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 999909445, 09-DA-N445
Study First Received: December 16, 2009
Last Updated: October 9, 2014
Health Authority: United States: Federal Government

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Cigarette Smoking

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Mental Disorders
Schizophrenia and Disorders with Psychotic Features
Autonomic Agents
Cholinergic Agents
Cholinergic Agonists
Ganglionic Stimulants
Molecular Mechanisms of Pharmacological Action
Neurotransmitter Agents
Nicotinic Agonists
Peripheral Nervous System Agents
Pharmacologic Actions
Physiological Effects of Drugs

ClinicalTrials.gov processed this record on August 27, 2015