Background: While the majority of pathological gamblers are current cigarette smokers (CS), some have quit smoking (former smokers, FS) while others never smoked (never smokers, NS). The reasons for elevated smoking rates in pathological gambling are not known, but gamblers may use nicotine as a putative cognitive enhancer. This study evaluated impulsivity and cognitive flexibility in a sample of pathological gamblers with differing smoking status. Methods: Fifty-five subjects with pathological gambling (CS, n = 34; FS, n = 10; NS, n = 11) underwent cognitive assessments using the Stop-Signal (SST) and Intradimensional/Extra-dimensional (ID/ED) set-shift tasks. Results: CS reported less severe gambling problems than either FS or NS on the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale modified for Pathological Gambling, and CS was associated with significantly fewer directional errors on the SST task, compared to NS. In addition, in CS, higher daily cigarette consumption was associated with fewer total errors on the ID/ED task. Conclusions: The potential role of nicotine as a cognitive enhancer was supported by objective tests of impulsivity and cognitive flexibility. Human laboratory studies using nicotine challenges in pathological gambling will shed further light on this relationship.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Dr. Grant has received research grants from NIMH, NIDA, National Center for Responsible Gaming and its affiliated Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders, Forest Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline. Dr. Grant receives yearly compensation from Springer Publishing for acting as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Gambling Studies. Dr. Grant has performed grant reviews for NIH and the Ontario Gambling Association. Dr. Grant has received royalties from Oxford University Press, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., Norton Press, and McGraw Hill. Dr. Grant has received compensation as a consultant for law offices on issues related to impulse control disorders. Mr. Odlaug has received honoraria from Oxford University Press and Current Medicine Group, LLC. Dr. Mooney and Dr. Kim declare that they have no relevant conflicts of interest to report.
This research was funded in part by an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1RC1DA028279-01) and through grant support from Forest Pharmaceuticals. The first author is supported by National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant K01-DA-019446.
- Cognitive flexibility
- Nicotine dependence
- Pathological gambling