A National Research Priority Program of the Logo DFG Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft

Funding Period 2011 - 2013



The role of alpha4beta2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in sustained attention: effects in smokers and non-smokers


Prof. Dr. Ulrich Wüllner (Scientific coordinator)

Klinik und Poliklinik für Neurologie

Universitätsklinikum Bonn

Sigmund-Freud-Str. 25

53105 Bonn


+49- 287-19465



Sustained attention as a basic cognitive function is improved by nicotine in smokers and non-smokers. Subjects with impaired attentional performance are at increased risk for nicotine addiction. Animal studies suggest that the effect of nicotine on attention is mediated by the alpha4beta2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAchR). We developed a novel positron emission tomography (PET) tracer for alpha4beta2 imaging in humans in vivo (2-[18F] F-A85380). In the present proposal, we will address the following topics: (1) relationship of the alpha4beta2 nAchR with performance and cortical activation during sustained attention in smokers and non-smokers, (2) effect of nicotine challenge on performance and cerebral activation during a sustained attention task in relation to the alpha4beta2 nAchR density and distribution in non-smokers and (3) follow-up study on changes of the alpha4beta2 nAchR and performance and cerebral activation in a sustained attention task in smokers following smoking cessation. The application of the novel a4b2 nAchR ligand will help to improve the understanding of nicotine effects on attention in humans.