June 22, 2004

Columbia Professor says smoking may help concentration

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

Recent research on the effect nicotine has on the brain suggests that smoking cigarettes may actually improve concentration abilities for people.

This preliminary conclusion is based on research on animals, but researchers at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons suspect that the study results may be applicable to humans as well and that nicotine may block some of the human brain's ''background noise'' so a person can more easily pay attention to important information that they are focused on.

The associate professor of neurology at Columbia University, David Sulzer, the lead author of the study that appears in Nature Neuroscience, suggested in a story in "The Miami Herald" that their recently-completed study may explain why most people with schizophrenia smoke a lot. "Nicotine may filter the stimuli that seems to flood the schizophrenic brain, helping tune out some of this excess information, he said" to the Miami Herald.

Dr. Sulzer and his team of Columbia researchers discovered that nicotine alters the response pattern of dopamine from a slow state to a fast burst of activity. The Miami Herald noted that "The fast bursts of dopamine make it easier for animals (and in theory, people) to tell the difference between important stimuli and background noise."

''Nicotine is acting like a filter for the dopamine system,'' Sulzer said.

Sources: Nature, The Miami Herald

Full Story: Nicotine Fix, Nature

More Information: Sulzer Laboratory at Columbia University


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