Prolonged duration of craving, mood, and autonomic responses elicited by cues and imagery in smokers: Effects of tobacco deprivation and sex

Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2010 Jun;18(3):245-56. doi: 10.1037/a0019401.


Increases in self-reported craving and changes in autonomic functioning are reliably elicited when smokers are exposed to tobacco-related stimuli compared with neutral stimuli. However, few studies have reported the time course of cue-elicited craving or have directly compared the effectiveness of smoking cues versus imagery to evoke a craving response. In addition to these two issues, we investigated the influence of tobacco deprivation and sex on craving, mood, and autonomic responses. Sixty cigarette smokers (30 men, 30 women) were tested in two counterbalanced sessions, one after overnight tobacco deprivation and one during ad libitum smoking. At each session, participants were exposed to four randomized experimental trials: smoking imagery, neutral imagery, smoking cues, and neutral cues. Tobacco craving and mood were assessed repeatedly and physiological measures were recorded continuously for 30 min after imagery or cue exposure. Compared with neutral trials, smoking cues and smoking imagery reliably increased tobacco craving, negative mood, heart rate, and blood pressure and decreased positive mood ratings. Changes were observed immediately after cue and imagery presentation and remained unchanged for 30 min. Responding was greater in the nondeprived condition, and cues elicited more robust responding than imagery for most measures. Women responded more robustly to smoking cues only in the nondeprived condition, whereas imagery evoked greater responses in men during both conditions. These findings provide new data on the time course, magnitude, and tobacco deprivation effects on elicited craving. Sex differences were dependent on stimulus type and deprivation condition.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Smoking Cessation* / methods
  • Smoking Cessation* / psychology
  • Smoking* / physiopathology
  • Smoking* / psychology
  • Smoking* / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult