Attentional bias is considered an important concept in addiction since it has been found to correlate with subjective craving and is strongly associated with relapse after periods of abstinence. Hence, investigating in ways to regulate attention for drug cues would be of major clinical relevance. The present study examined deliberate, cognitive modulation of motivated attention for smoking cues in smokers. The effects of three different reappraisal strategies on an electrophysiological measure of attentive processing were investigated. Early and late LPP components in response to passively viewed neutral and smoking pictures were compared with LPPs in response to smoking pictures that were reappraised with three different reappraisal strategies. Results show that when smokers actively imagine how pleasant it would be to smoke (pleasant condition), their early LPP in response to smoking cues increases, but when smokers actively focus on an alternative stimulus (distraction condition) or think of a rational, uninvolved interpretation of the situation (rational condition), smoking-related late LPP amplitude decreases to the processing level of neutral stimuli. Present results are the first to indicate that smoking cue-elicited LPP amplitudes can be modulated by cognitive strategies, suggesting that attentive processing of smoking cues can be intentionally regulated by smokers with various levels of dependence. Although cognitive strategies can lead to enhanced processing of smoking cues, it is not completely clear whether cognitive strategies are also successful in reducing smoking-related motivated attention. Although findings do point in this direction, present study is best considered preliminary and a starting point for other research on this topic. A focus on the distraction strategy is proposed, as there are indications that this strategy is more successful than the rational strategy in decreasing LPP amplitude.

dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0027519, hdl.handle.net/1765/64464
PLoS ONE
Department of Psychology

Littel, M, & Franken, I.H.A. (2011). Intentional modulation of the late positive potential in response to smoking cues by cognitive strategies in smokers. PLoS ONE, 6(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027519