Rationale: Utilising a cognitively demanding strategy-based priming paradigm, we recently observed that acute transdermal nicotine selectively influenced controlled semantic processing but not related-word links within semantic memory per se as reported by Holmes et al. (Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 11:389-399, 2008). Objective: The current study employed a less cognitively demanding priming paradigm to investigate whether nicotine influences the activation/access of links within semantic memory, and if the selective nicotinic influence on controlled but not automatic semantic processing could also be observed with these more general priming procedures.
Methods: Transdermal nicotine patches (7 mg/24 h) were administered to healthy young adults in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design. The automatic priming task (∈n∈∈=∈18) had a low relatedness proportion (RP) and was presented at a short stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA), while the controlled priming task (∈n∈∈=∈18) had a high RP and long SOA. Results: The patterns of priming effects indicated that automatic and controlled processing were operating for the respective tasks. However, a nicotinic influence on semantic processing was not evident for either task, nor was interplay of nicotine and relatedness observed.