Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Nicotine enhances attention by turning off the default network

An article in today's Journal of Neuroscience elaborates on the effects of nicotine previously mentioned here .

The default network is a pattern of spontanious activation that occurs when the brain is at rest - some think of it as the 'daydreaming' or 'zoning out' network. When the brain is engaged in a cognitive task (memory recall, problem solving, shifting attention, etc) the default network is inhibited. When the brain is "just sitting there" (staring at the wall, waiting in line at the bank) the default network fires up.

Here's a picture of it:

(Picture courtesy Justin Vincent.)

In smokers, a nicotine patch switched off scattered parts of the default network and also improved reaction time in an attention task.

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