Recent research suggesting that nicotine cues are appetitive in nature promotes the affective modulation of the startle reflex (AMSR) paradigm as a potentially valuable psychophysiological tool for elucidating mechanisms involved in nicotine addiction. Despite numerous studies indicating stress as a key factor in nicotine dependence, specific behavioral mechanisms linking stress and smoking have yet to be explicated. The current study aimed to determine the effects of stress, a negative affective state intimately linked with nicotine use, on the psychophysiological responding of nicotine dependent individuals during smoking cues. Twenty-nine nicotine dependent individuals were randomly assigned to the trier social stress test or control condition directly prior to administration of the AMSR paradigm, which examined their physiological responses to appetitive, neutral, aversive, and nicotine cue images. Both groups evinced significantly decreased startle magnitudes in response to nicotine cues as compared to aversive images. However, exposure to stress did not significantly modulate the startle reflex while viewing nicotine cues. Stress induction does not appear to modulate the AMSR paradigm when evaluating responses to nicotine images. These findings suggest that AMSR is robust to effects of acute stress induction in nicotine dependent individuals which may increase its viability as a clinical tool for assessing success in smoking cessation interventions.
William V Lechner, D. Grant, Ellen Meier
Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback