Brain indices of nicotine's effects on attentional bias to smoking and emotional pictures and to task-relevant targets.
Aversive and smoking-related stimuli are related to smoking urges and relapse and can be potent distractors of selective attention. It has been suggested that the beneficial effect of nicotine replacement therapy may be mediated partly by the ability of nicotine to reduce distraction by such stimuli and thereby to facilitate attention to task-relevant stimuli. The present study tested the hypothesis that nicotine reduces distraction by aversive and smoking-related stimuli as indexed by the parietal P3b brain response to a task-relevant target digit. We assessed the effect of nicotine on distraction by emotionally negative, positive, neutral, and smoking-related pictures immediately preceding target digits during a rapid visual information processing task in 16 smokers in a double-blind, counterbalanced, within-subjects design. The study included two experimental sessions. After overnight smoking deprivation (12+ hr), active nicotine patches were applied to participants during one of the sessions and placebo patches were applied during the other session. Nicotine enhanced P3b responses associated with target digits immediately subsequent to negative emotional pictures bilaterally and subsequent to smoking-related pictures only in the right hemisphere. No effects of nicotine were observed for P3bs subsequent to positive and neutral distractor pictures. Another measure of attention, contingent negative variation amplitude in anticipation of the target digits also was increased by nicotine, especially in the left hemisphere and at posterior sites. Together, these findings suggest that nicotine reduces the distraction by emotionally negative and smoking-related stimuli and promotes attention to task-related stimuli by modulating somewhat lateralized and task-specific neural networks.
Gilbert, DG; Sugai, C; Zuo, Y; Rabinovich, NE; McClernon, FJ; Froeliger, B
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