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Nicotine does not enhance discrimination performance in a temporal bisection procedure

Ward, Ryan D.; Barrett, Scott T.; Johnson, Robert N.; Odum, Amy L.

doi: 10.1097/FBP.0b013e3283242fc2
Original Articles

Recent reports of selective disruption of stimulus control by drug administration and other disruptive operations in temporal discrimination procedures may be interpreted as a disruption of attention to the temporal sample stimuli. This experiment assessed the effects of nicotine, a compound that has been widely shown to increase measures of attention, on temporal discrimination performance. Pigeons responded under a psychophysical choice procedure in which responses to one key color were correct after presentation of four shorter sample durations and responses to another key color were correct after presentation of four longer sample durations. Performance under nicotine was characterized by using a model that differentiates the effects of nicotine on stimulus control, bias, and sensitivity of temporal discrimination. Nicotine selectively decreased the measure of stimulus control, but did not systematically affect the measures of timing. Mecamylamine (1.0 mg/kg) failed to antagonize the disruptive effects of nicotine. These results suggest that disruption of temporal discrimination performance in this preparation may not have been dependent on the specific pharmacology of nicotine and underscore the importance of quantitative separation of the effects of various manipulations on stimulus control from effects on timing.

Department of Psychology, Utah State University, Utah, USA

Correspondence to Dr Ryan D. Ward, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit #50, New York, NY 10032, USA


Received 10 June 2008 Accepted as revised 25 November 2008

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.