Effect of varenicline on aspects of inhibitory control in smokers

Austin, A J, Duka, T, Rusted, J and Jackson, A (2014) Effect of varenicline on aspects of inhibitory control in smokers. Psychopharmacology, 231 (18). pp. 3771-3785. ISSN 0033-3158

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Varenicline, a partial agonist at α4β2 nicotinic receptors (nAChRs) aids smoking cessation by reducing craving. Successful quitting may be associated with greater inhibitory control but the effectiveness of varenicline in this regard is unknown.


This study aimed to investigate the effect of varenicline on aspects of inhibitory control in smokers.


A double-blind, placebo-controlled study investigating the effect of varenicline 1 mg (or matched placebo) in satiated and abstinent smokers. Tests included Rapid Visual Information Processing (RVIP), Stop-Signal (SS), Prospective Memory (PM) and the Cambridge Gambling Task (CGT).


Smoking enhanced RVIP accuracy and latency to respond. Varenicline did not alter RVIP performance, nor the effect of smoking, suggesting that these effects were unrelated to α4β2 nAChRs. Smoking increased the number of errors during SS and increased the stop latency, indicating that smoking decreased inhibitory control. Varenicline partially mimicked this effect of smoking but also reduced the smoking-induced increase, indicating a role for α4β2 nAChRs. Likewise, smoking increased the number of points bet following a win during CGT and varenicline blocked this effect. There was no effect of smoking or varenicline on PM target detection per se. However, smoking protected the target detection rate in the ongoing task when a concurrent intention was introduced. Varenicline improved response speed in both satiated and abstinent smokers.


Some aspects of inhibitory control may be mediated by α4β2-related mechanisms and blockade of smoking-induced disinhibition may contribute towards the action of varenicline as an aid to smoking cessation.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Depositing User: Lene Hyltoft
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2015 12:12
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 22:36
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/55671

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