Differential cigarette-related startle cue reactivity among light, moderate, and heavy smokers

Addict Behav. 2012 Aug;37(8):885-9. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2012.02.003. Epub 2012 Feb 15.


In this study, we examined the relationship between the level of daily cigarette consumption and the startle response to affective and cigarette-related cues among treatment-seeking smokers. Before receiving any behavioral or pharmacological treatment, 136 smokers attended a baseline laboratory session, during which we recorded their reflexive eyeblink responses to acoustic startle probes while they were viewing pleasant, unpleasant, neutral, and cigarette-related pictures. We found that 1) cigarette-related and pleasant pictures similarly reduced the startle magnitude compared to neutral pictures; 2) the magnitude of startle modulation rendered by pleasant or unpleasant pictures did not differ among light, moderate, and heavy smokers; and 3) startle attenuation by cigarette-related pictures was greater in heavy smokers than in light smokers. These results suggest that similar to pleasant stimuli, cigarette-related cues are motivationally salient for smokers, and that this salience increases with nicotine dependence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blinking / physiology
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Texas / epidemiology
  • Young Adult