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Effects of cigarette smoking on prepulse inhibition, its attentional modulation, and vigilance performance


  • This research was supported by NIMH grants MH068093 (PI: Anthony Rissling) and R01 MH46433 and K02 MH01086 (PI: Michael Dawson).

  • We thank William C. Williams for providing computer software for the off-line scoring of startle eyeblink and eletrodermal data and Patrick Carlyle for providing revised versions of the degraded stimulus continuous performance task computer program.

Address reprint requests to: Anthony J. Rissling, Department of Psychology, Seeley G. Mudd Building, Room 501, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061, USA. E-mail:


Startle eyeblink modification was measured during a degraded stimulus continuous performance test following both smoking and overnight abstinence among student smokers to measure the effects of smoking on both early and late attentional processes. A group of nonsmokers was tested twice without nicotine manipulation. A startling noise was presented either 240 or 1200 ms following target and nontarget stimuli presented during the task. Startle inhibition at 240 ms was greater following targets than nontargets following smoking and during both nonsmoker tests, but this attentional modulation was absent following abstinence. At the 1200-ms probe position, target and nontarget stimuli produced nondifferential inhibition during both tests for both groups. Abstinence among smokers produced reliably lower vigilance performance compared to ad lib smoking. The results indicate that smoking abstinence affects the early stages of stimulus processing.