Cigarette craving is a key feature of smoking, which is the leading preventable cause of death. While smokers often recognize this danger, during moments of temptation the appeal of smoking rises and the habit persists. Unfortunately, research has struggled to develop treatments for craving relief. One approach showing promise is the strategic use of olfactory cues (OCs) to reduce craving. Two studies from the PI?s lab indicate that pleasant OCs reduce cigarette craving. Others have replicated this effect for food craving. Yet little is known about the nature of this urge-reducing effect, its underlying mechanisms, and individual differences that moderate its benefit. This application addresses FOA PAR 18-323: Fundamental Science Research on Mind and Body Approaches by testing this use of a natural product (OCs) to control craving and by testing the ?neurocognitive and behavioral mechanisms underlying? OC-induced craving relief (an FOA objective). Integrating theory and research derived from three disciplines rarely applied to smoking (olfaction, emotion, cognition), the project will test the impact of pleasant OCs on craving. Also pertinent to the FOA, this project will use innovative nonverbal measures of emotion and advanced multi-voxel pattern analyses (MVPA) (along with traditional fMRI analyses) to evaluate precise, theory-driven, underlying mechanisms (working memory, attentional engagement, delay discounting, response inhibition) for how OCs attenuate craving. The project will test why certain smokers may have trouble managing their craving and why OCs may be especially useful for a subset of smokers. Abstinent daily and nondaily smokers (n=250) will attend a multi-session experiment. They will rate a set of OCs on several dimensions, including pleasantness, mood, and related memories. They next perform a series of cognitive tasks during an fMRI session. They will receive in vivo smoking cues, which together with smoking abstinence, elicits robust urges. Next they will sniff an OC (one they had rated earlier as either pleasant or neutral) while urge and mood are assessed. MVPA will be used to generate ?neural fingerprints? for cognitive and affective processes in each smoker to probe the mechanisms underlying their own OC-induced urge reduction, and to inform matching of subjects to OCs. Subjects also will attend a behavioral session using a novel set of craving-related responses, including an urge pressure dynamometer and the Facial Action Coding System, to identify those most sensitive to urge relief, and to generate behavioral proxies for patterns of fMRI activity. As a secondary aim, we will test the effects of OCs on urge and smoking in the field. This translational study, drawing on fMRI and behavioral data regarding the unique power of OCs to alter affective states, will test key mechanisms of urge relief related to neurobehavioral addiction models. This interdisciplinary research also should stimulate future research testing the impact of OCs, alone or with other interventions (e.g., nicotine patches, cognitive therapies) on smoking cessation. Regardless of outcome, this research will provide important data on the interaction of emotional and cognitive processes during craving.

Public Health Relevance

) Although quitting smoking is the most important action a smoker can take to prevent premature mortality, cessation has proven difficult. Observed relations between craving and relapse suggest that novel approaches to craving relief are sorely needed, and initial findings support the use of olfactory cues to control cravings. Integrating theory and research derived from three disciplines rarely applied to smoking research (olfaction, emotion, and cognition), the application combines brain imaging and behavioral research to understand how odors work to reduce craving and to identify ways of matching odors to individual smokers, setting the stage for future research testing its value as a component of a smoking cessation intervention and for testing the impact of olfaction on a variety of mind/body experiences.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Research Project (R01)
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Addiction Risks and Mechanisms Study Section (ARM)
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Belfer, Inna
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University of Pittsburgh
Schools of Medicine
United States
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