Cigarette craving is a vital feature of smoking, which is the leading preventable cause of cancer. While smokers generally recognize this danger, during hot moments of temptation the appeal of smoking a cigarette rises, previously learned coping skills or quit-smoking messages may be either ignored or abandoned, and often the smoking habit persists. Despite its importance, research has struggled to develop effective treatments for craving relief and new innovative approaches are sorely needed. The proposed project addresses RFA-CA- 12-015: Research Answers to NCI's Provocative Questions (PQA3) by evaluating a novel bio-behavioral approach to help smokers reduce their cigarette cravings. Integrating basic theory and research derived from three disciplines that rarely have been applied to smoking research (olfaction, emotion, and cognition), the proposed project aims to test the effectiveness of specific olfactory cues to reduce cigarette cravings. In addition - and pertinent to the RFA - this research tests a range of individual difference factors such as working memory, personality, motivation to quit, and gender, which prior theory and research suggest should moderate the craving-reducing effects of olfactory cues. As a consequence, the project will advance knowledge of why certain individuals may have particular trouble managing their cravings and refraining from smoking. Abstinent smokers (N=250) with varying motivations to quit will attend a multi-session experiment. Initially participants will sample and rate a serie of olfactory cues on several dimensions, including pleasantness, familiarity, and associated memories. Participants then will be exposed to in vivo smoking cues, which in the context of smoking abstinence, produce robust cigarette cravings. While at peak craving, they will be randomly assigned to sniff an odor that they had previously rated as either being most pleasant (and unrelated to smoking), a tobacco odor, or a neutral odor while urge, mood, and a novel set of craving-related responses derived from basic research in cognition and emotion (including Paul Ekman's Facial Action Coding System) will be assessed. This research also will test key mechanisms of craving relief that relate to existing theories of craving and addiction. In addition the project will monitor the durability of this predicted odor- induced craving-relief within a sinle experimental session and across sessions conducted on different days. This conceptually-driven research is motivated by neurobiological and behavioral research indicating the unique power of olfaction to trigger emotional memories and to fundamentally alter emotional states such as craving. The proposed project will examine interactions between emotional and cognitive processes that, while craving, may serve to hamper effective coping, and will set the stage for future research testing the impact of olfaction - alone or combined with other agents (e.g., nicotine patches) - on smoking cessation. Irrespective of the outcome, the proposed research using a novel set of measures will provide critical data regarding 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 cancer, cessation has proven difficult. Given observed relations between craving and smoking relapse, novel approaches to craving relief are sorely needed. Integrating basic theory and research derived from three disciplines that rarely have been applied to smoking research (olfaction, emotion, and cognition), the proposed project aims to test the effectiveness of specific olfactory cues to reduce cigarette cravings, setting the stage fr future research testing its value as a component of a smoking cessation intervention.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1)
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Ferrer, Rebecca
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University of Pittsburgh
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Martin, Lea M; Sayette, Michael A (2018) A review of the effects of nicotine on social functioning. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 26:425-439
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Sayette, Michael A (2016) The Role of Craving in Substance Use Disorders: Theoretical and Methodological Issues. Annu Rev Clin Psychol 12:407-33
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