Eye tracking of smoking-related stimuli in tobacco use disorder: A proof-of-concept study combining attention bias modification with alpha-transcranial alternating current stimulation.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Drug Alcohol Depend, Volume 214, p.108152 (2020)


<p><strong>BACKGROUND: </strong>Tobacco use disorder (TUD) is characterized by the presence of an attentional bias (AB) towards smoking-related stimuli. We investigated whether combining an AB modification paradigm (ABM) with transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) applied over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) reduces the AB towards smoking-related stimuli, as well as craving level and impulsive choices.</p>

<p><strong>METHODS: </strong>In a sham-controlled, crossover preliminary study, 19 subjects with TUD received two stimulation arms: 1) active tACS (10 Hz, 2 mA, 30 min) combined with ABM and 2) sham tACS combined with ABM, in a randomized order, separated by one week. AB towards smoking cues during passive observation of smoking and neutral cues was assessed with an eye-tracking device and reactions times at a visual-probe task. Craving level was measured with the Questionnaire of Smoking Urges. Impulsive choices were assessed with the delay discounting task.</p>

<p><strong>RESULTS: </strong>Active tACS combined with ABM reduced the amount of time spent looking at smoking-related pictures (p = 0.03), prevented the increase of self-reported desire to smoke (p = 0.026), and reduced the proportion of impulsive choices (p = 0.049), compared to sham tACS combined with ABM. No significant effects were reported on other craving dimensions and on AB based on reaction times.</p>

<p><strong>CONCLUSIONS: </strong>These preliminary findings suggest that combining tACS with ABM may help smokers who wish to quit by reducing the desire to smoke, attention to smoking-cues, and impulsive decision-making.</p>

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