Research suggests nicotine therapies boosts alpha brain waves, mental focus

One of the major problems with this recent surge in anti-vaping hysteria is that public health officials never make clear that tobacco and nicotine are two very different things. Yes, both combustible cigarettes and most e-liquids used in vaping contain nicotine, but the amounts found in e-cigs are substantially less comparatively.

Furthermore, vaping is 100% tobacco-free.  And it’s the burning of tobacco leaves associated with smoking cigarettes that results in increased exposures to carcinogens, tar, and hundreds of toxic chemicals intentionally included by Big Tobacco to keep the smoker addicted – for life!

Nicotine in itself is not terribly harmful nor substantially addictive.  It’s a naturally occurring substance found in many of Mother Nature’s favorite vegetables, including eggplants, potatoes, and tomatoes. 

Scientists are even conducting research at this very moment that seemingly indicates nicotine therapies can be very beneficial to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.  In fact, new research out of The Netherlands further suggests that these same nicotine treatments can boost alpha brain wave production which increases mental focus by reducing the negative effects of possible outside distractions.

The Donder Institute nicotine study on alpha brain waves

Scientists have known for decades that nicotine produces stimulatory effects on the brain in the near term.  Based on this fundamental principle, two scientists from the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, developed an experiment involving a small control group of eighteen participants.  Some were smokers.  Others were never-smokers.

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The primary objective of the study was to determine if nicotine ingestion enhances memorization skills by simultaneously increasing alpha brain wave production.  Researchers Mathilde Bonnefond and Ole Jensen began their experiment by asking each participant to memorize multiple sequences of four flashing letters appearing and disappearing very quickly on a nearby computer screen.  Next, a fifth letter would flash on-screen, and the volunteer was asked to identify its position in the original 4-letter sequence.

The speed of the flashing letters gradually increased to a mere fraction of a second in between.  Meanwhile behind the scenes in the laboratory, technicians were carefully monitoring alpha brain wave production and other related mental activities using non-invasive magneto-encephalography (MEG) technology.   Another technician would simultaneously record the speed and accuracy of each participant’s responses.

To make things even more interesting, the researchers would occasionally toss a “distractor” into the mix as the fifth entry into the sequence.  They used two kinds of distractors, either a random additional letter that was not a member of the original 4-letter sequence or a symbol of some kind, such as an asterisk or a triangle.  If a distractor appeared on-screen, the participants were told to ignore them and continue with the experiment. 

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Bonnefond and Jensen essentially wanted to see if the volunteers could avoid the disturbances of the “distractors” and still maintain their speed and accuracy.  What the Donder Insititute scientists determined is that the smokers group was more successful in avoiding the distractions, and therefore, they achieved higher scores compared to the non-smoking group.  The smokers exhibited higher productions of alpha brain waves, too. 

The resulting paper entitled Alpha waves close your mind for distraction, but not continuously, research suggests is published on Science News.  A second previous study conducted by the same team and related to the same scientific theories is published in the journal Current Biology.  Researchers Mathilde Bonnefond and Ole Jensen are currently engaged in a third study on the same topic of nicotine and alpha brain wave production that will involve a significantly larger group of participants.

Related Article:  Does U.S. Surgeon General (who calls vaping an ‘epidemic’) have ties to Big Tobacco?

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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