Time Passes Slowly Without a Light

Perception of 45 seconds altered when smokers quit for a day, study finds

FRIDAY, May 16, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The stress and inability to focus experienced by many smokers when they're trying to quit may be due to impaired time perception.

That claim comes from a Penn State study in the current issue of the journal Psychopharmacology Bulletin.

The study found 20 daily smokers who went without cigarettes for 24 hours overestimated by about 50 percent the duration of a 45-second interval. They were much more accurate in estimating time duration when they were smoking.

"The time perception impairment that we observed in the abstaining smokers may be part of the reason they also reported feeling more stressed and unable to focus or be attentive. Time estimation is used as an index of attention processes," study co-director Dr. Laura Cousino Klein says in a news release.

The study included 22 nonsmokers and 20 daily smokers. They were asked to estimate a 45-second period of time in a laboratory setting. The smokers took part in two sessions -- once while smoking and another after having stopped smoking for 24 hours.

The time estimates made by the smokers and nonsmokers before the smokers' abstinence period were similar and fairly accurate. However, the smokers' accuracy declined significantly after they went without cigarettes for 24 hours. The results were the same for both men and women.

"That 24-hour cigarette smoking abstinence can alter perceptions of time in a healthy, young, non-clinical population of smokers emphasizes the need for future research to delineate the attention-altering effects of nicotine and nicotine withdrawal on addiction processes," the researchers conclude.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about smoking cessation.

Robert Preidt

Robert Preidt

Published on May 16, 2003

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