Effects of Nicotine Pharmacology and Stimulus Expectancies on Withdrawal and Attentional Processing




Kaufman, Laura M.

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Smoking is a major public health issue in the United States. People smoke for different reasons many of which go beyond the simple pharmacology of nicotine. The current study sought to clarify the independent and potentially interactive effects of nicotine pharmacology and smoking expectancies on self-reported withdrawal symptoms and sustained attention. To this end, the study employed a mixed design with a modified balanced placebo component, as well as repeated assessments (pre-smoking vs. post-smoking) of the Wisconsin Smoking Withdrawal Scale and the Rapid Visual Information Processing task. This design created four groups of participants split by instructional set (told high-dose nicotine cigarette vs. told low-dose nicotine cigarette) and actual nicotine dose (low-dose vs. high-dose). For subjective measures of withdrawal, results indicated that expectancies, but not nicotine pharmacology, were associated with the alleviation of symptoms. Individuals expecting to receive a low-dose nicotine cigarette reported lower levels of withdrawal compared to those expecting to receive a high-dose nicotine cigarette. For sustained attention, nicotine pharmacology, but not expectancy, was associated with facilitated performance. Participants who received a high-dose nicotine cigarette exhibited decreased reaction times on the RVIP task. No interactions of expectancies and pharmacology were noted for withdrawal or sustained attention. The current findings underscore the importance of non-nicotinic factors in the maintenance of smoking behavior, particularly with regard to subjective perception of withdrawal symptoms. Though preliminary, these results suggest that modem smoking cessation techniques should take into account sensory factors that go beyond the pharmacological effects of nicotine addiction.



nicotine addiction, drug withdrawal symptoms, expectation, nicotine


Kaufman, L. M. (2010). Effects of nicotine pharmacology and stimulus expectancies on withdrawal and attentional processing (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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