Differences in Cognitive Task Performance, Reinforcement Enhancement, and Nicotine Dependence Between Menthol and Nonmenthol Cigarette Smokers

Nancy C. Jao*, Edward D. Levin, Melissa A. Simon, Brian Hitsman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Menthol has been shown to target similar brain regions and neural receptors as nicotine, yet the association between menthol cigarette use and cognitive performance remains unknown. Aims and Methods: This study examined differences in cognitive task performance between menthol (MS) and nonmenthol (NMS) cigarette smokers after acute cigarette consumption. Sixty white and black and/or African American, nonabstinent, MS (n = 30) and NMS (n = 30) were assessed presmoking and postsmoking their preferred cigarette on four computerized tasks: Continuous Performance Task (CPT; alerting attention), N-Back Task (working memory), Finger Tapping Task (motor control), and Apple Picker Task (reinforcement enhancement). Self-reported nicotine dependence and objective smoking topography measures were also compared between groups. Results: Initial unadjusted analyses showed a significant effect of cigarette type × time on CPT speed (p = .042), where MS improved while NMS group worsened in CPT speed after smoking. After controlling for baseline cigarette craving and cigarette nicotine levels, the effect of cigarette type × time for all cognitive outcomes was statistically nonsignificant (ps > .05). However, there remained a significant effect of cigarette type, where MS versus NMS had poorer CPT (p = .046) and N-BackTask accuracy (p = .006) but faster N-Back speed (p = .039).There were no statistically significant differences between groups on reinforcement enhancement, nicotine dependence, or smoking behavior outcomes (ps > .05). Conclusions: Contrary to our hypotheses, results did not find a significant effect of cigarette type on the change in cognitive performance after acute smoking in nonabstinent smokers. Further studies are needed to clarify the specific pharmacological effects of nicotine and menthol on cognitive functioning. Implications: The current study is the first to compare the potential enhancement of cognitive task performance after acute cigarette smoking between satiated menthol and nonmenthol cigarette smokers. Study results suggest that acute menthol cigarette use may not enhance cognitive function above and beyond nonmenthol cigarettes to increase dependence among menthol smokers. However, the contribution of other psychological factors (eg, craving, mood) and cigarette characteristics (eg, nicotine content) may be involved in cognitive function enhancement to perpetuate dependence and smoking persistence for menthol smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1902-1910
Number of pages9
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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