Electroencephalography reveals a selective disruption of cognitive control processes in craving cigarette smokers.
Addiction to nicotine is extremely challenging to overcome, and the intense craving for the next cigarette often leads to relapse in smokers who wish to quit. To dampen the urges of craving and inhibit unwanted behaviour, smokers must harness cognitive control, which is itself impaired in addiction. It is likely that craving may interact with cognitive control, and the present study sought to test the specificity of such interactions. To this end, data from 24 smokers were gathered using EEG and behavioural measures in a craving session (following a three-hour nicotine abstention period) and a non-craving session (having just smoked). In both sessions, participants performed a task probing various facets of cognitive control (response inhibition, task switching and conflict processing). Results showed that craving smokers were less flexible with the implementation of cognitive control, with demands of task switching and incongruency yielding greater deficits under conditions of craving. Importantly, inhibitory control was not affected by craving, suggesting that the interactions of craving and cognitive control are selective. Together, these results provide evidence that smokers already exhibit specific control-related deficits after brief nicotine deprivation. This disruption of cognitive control while craving may help to explain why abstinence is so difficult to maintain.
Donohue, SE; Harris, JA; Loewe, K; Hopf, J-M; Heinze, H-J; Woldorff, MG; Schoenfeld, MA
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