King's College London

Research portal

Neural effects of methylphenidate and nicotine during smooth pursuit eye movements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Anna-Maria Kasparbauer, Inga Meyhöfer, Maria Steffens, Bernd Weber, Merve Aydin, Veena Kumari, Rene Hurlemann, Ulrich Ettinger

Original languageEnglish
Early online date9 Jul 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jul 2016


King's Authors


Nicotine and methylphenidate are putative cognitive enhancers in healthy and patient populations. Although they stimulate different neurotransmitter systems, they have been shown to enhance performance on overlapping measures of attention. So far, there has been no direct comparison of the effects of these two stimulants on behavioural performance or brain function in healthy humans. Here, we directly compare the two compounds using a well-established oculomotor biomarker in order to explore common and distinct behavioural and neural effects.

Eighty-two healthy male non-smokers performed a smooth pursuit eye movement task while lying in an fMRI scanner. In a between-subjects, double-blind design, subjects either received placebo (placebo patch and capsule), nicotine (7 mg nicotine patch and placebo capsule), or methylphenidate (placebo patch and 40 mg methylphenidate capsule).

There were no significant drug effects on behavioural measures. At the neural level, methylphenidate elicited higher activation in left frontal eye field compared to nicotine.

While increased hemodynamic response under methylphenidate is interpretable as enhanced processing of task-relevant networks, the reduced activation of task-related regions under nicotine could be associated with more efficient neural processing. Together, these findings suggest dissociable neural effects of these putative cognitive enhancers.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454