fMRI Study of Nicotinic Effect on Neurophysiology of Schizophrenia

2014-08-27 03:16:46 | BioPortfolio



- Individuals who have schizophrenia are significantly more likely to smoke than the general population, which leads to increased smoking-related illnesses and high rates of nicotine dependence. Research suggests that high rates of smoking and nicotine addiction in people with schizophrenia are related to the fact that nicotine temporally improves performance in several cognitive tasks, including sensory gating, long-term memory, and visual tracking-all of which are affected by schizophrenia.

- Smoking among schizophrenia patients may be a form of self-medication, since nicotine may temporarily treat and improve cognitive deficits caused by schizophrenia. Researchers are interested in studying the effects of nicotine on the brain activity of individuals with schizophrenia to better understand how nicotine affects the brain regions connected to memory, visual tracking, and attention.


- To identify specific brain regions involved in the anticipatory learning deficits found in schizophrenia patients who smoke.

- To determine whether and how nicotine enhances performance in these regions.


- Smokers (at least 10 cigarettes per day) between 18 and 50 years of age who either are healthy volunteers or have been diagnosed with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder.


- Participants will be asked to avoid consuming alcohol and restrict consuming caffeinated beverages for 24 hours before the study days. Participants will provide urine and breath samples at the start of the study to be tested for chemicals that may interfere with the study.

- The study will require two to four visits, with two fMRI sessions and other visits for a clinical interview or training.

Participants will have a training session with a possible mock MRI scan to learn how to do tasks that track eye movement and measure ability to pay attention.

- During the fMRI scanning sessions, participants will receive either a nicotine patch or a placebo patch without nicotine. After the patch is in place, participants will perform tasks while receiving MRI scans. The scans will take up to 2 hours.

- Participants will provide blood samples after finishing the MRI sessions.


The prevalence rate of smoking among schizophrenia patients is as high as 88 percent. This is associated with a 2-fold increase in deaths due to smoking related diseases-compounded by high rates of nicotine dependence and low abstinence rates following cessation programs. Converging lines of evidence suggest that high rates of smoking and nicotine addiction among schizophrenic patients is influenced by the presence of disease-related abnormalities in brain function. Genetic and post mortem studies show that patients exhibit abnormalities in neuronal nicotinic receptors, which are involved in a number of cognitive functions. Pharmacological studies show that nicotine temporally improves performance in several cognitive tasks including sensory gating, long-term memory, and visual tracking. These data support a growing consensus that smoking among schizophrenic patients is a form of self-medication, and suggest that the success of targeted smoking cessation programs will depend, in part, on finding alternative means of treating the underlying cognitive deficits. One of the most reproducible neurocognitive and biological changes in schizophrenia is abnormal visual tracking, or smooth pursuit eye movements. Preliminary data show that previously reported deficits in visual tracking are related to anticipatory learning deficits and that nicotine enhances performance in patients by temporarily treating this learning deficit. A better understanding of these processes may lead to better behavioral and/or pharmacological therapeutic interventions for excessive nicotine abuse and recidivism in this clinically vulnerable population. In order to identify brain regions underlying this learning deficit we propose to compare brain activations in 30 healthy controls and 30 patients with schizophrenia during anticipation of target motion using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In order to identify the brain regions involved in nicotine-induced enhancement of anticipatory learning we will compare activation in patients under conditions of unexpected and anticipated target motion following administration of nicotine and placebo.

Study Design





Maryland Psychiatric Research Center (MPRC) 55 Wade Avenue
United States


Active, not recruiting


National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2014-08-27T03:16:46-0400

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