Is smoking-related attentional bias a useful marker for treatment effects?
Spiegelhalder K., Jähne A., Kyle SD., Beil M., Doll C., Feige B., Riemann D.
Theoretical models of nicotine abuse suggest that preferential attention allocation towards smoking-related stimuli plays an important role in the development and maintenance of smoking behavior. However, little is known about the impact of standard treatment programs for nicotine cessation on this effect. In the current study, we investigated smoking-related attentional bias using a visual dot probe task and an emotional Stroop task before and after a standard behavioral group therapy. Smokers (n=39) who received treatment, a smoker control group without treatment (n=20) and a non-smoker control group (n=20) were investigated. Although we found a reduction in attentional bias scores after successful treatment, this effect failed to reach statistical significance. Of note, we observed a low test-retest reliability in low-dependence smokers in both tasks which is a substantial limitation for using these paradigms in longitudinal studies. Additionally, there was no significant correlation between the attentional bias scores from both tasks.