Effects of nicotine on affect are moderated by stressor proximity and frequency, positive alternatives, and smoker status

DG Gilbert, NE Rabinovich, Debra Malpass, J Mrnak, H Riise, L Adams, C Suagi, M DevlescHoward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


The Situation x Trait Adaptive Response (STAR) model hypothesizes that nicotine reduces negative and enhances positive affect to a greater degree in situations involving internally driven attention, as when stressor stimuli are distal (past or future), thereby allowing nicotine-primed biasing of attentional processing away from negative and toward positive stimuli. To test this hypothesis, the effects of nicotine were assessed in 64 smokers and 64 never-smokers, half of whom viewed emotionally negative pictures in a no-choice picture attention task that required them to focus on the picture stressors. The other half viewed the same stimuli in a two-choice picture attention task that presented stressor pictures in one visual field and simultaneously presented positive or neutral pictures in the other visual field. Participants received a nicotine patch during one session and a placebo patch during the other session. Nicotine modulated affect only in smokers. In smokers, compared with placebo, nicotine patch reduced negative affect more during the distal periods (between stressors) than during actual stressor exposure and in women reduced negative affect more when the proportion of negative stimuli was low. Nicotine also enhanced positive affect more during distal than proximal stressors. Nicotine tended to reduce eye-gaze at negative pictures, especially when the alternative picture was positive. The overall findings are consistent with the view that nicotine biases attention away from negative stimuli when equally salient positive or benign stimuli are present.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1171-1183
Number of pages13
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


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