Nicotine withdrawal is associated with deficits in neurocognitive function including sustained attention, working memory, and response inhibition. Several convergent lines of evidence suggest that these deficits may represent a core dependence phenotype and a target for treatment development efforts. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying withdrawal-related cognitive deficits may lead to improve nicotine dependence treatment. We begin with an overview of the neurocognitive effects of withdrawal in rodent and human models, followed by discussion of the neurobehavioral mechanisms that are thought to underlie these effects. We then review individual differences in withdrawal-related neurocognitive effects including genetics, gender, and psychiatric comorbidity. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this research for developing improved therapies, both pharmacotherapy and behavioral treatments, that target cognitive symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
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