Effects of nicotine and alcohol on affective responses to emotionally toned film clips

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Dawkins, Lynne ; Powell, J. (2011)

Rationale: Smoking abstinence can result in decreased affective reactions to positively valenced stimuli and this can be reversed via smoking. Given their shared ability to trigger nucleus accumbens dopamine release, a priming dose of alcohol may likewise augment positive affective responses during abstinence. Objectives: To replicate our previous finding that compared to satiation, abstinence from smoking will be associated with decreased ‘happiness’ responses to positively valenced film clips (study 1); and to explore whether a priming dose of alcohol can substitute for nicotine by concomitantly enhancing such responses (study 2). In both studies ‘sadness’ responses to negatively valenced clips were also included.\ud Methods: 32 and 77 smokers respectively in studies 1 and 2 were randomly allocated to abstain from smoking for 10 hours (abstinent smokers) or smoke as usual (satiated smokers). Participants then rated the extent to which they felt a list of emotions in response to each of 16 film clips. In study 2, participants were additionally allocated to an alcohol manipulation in which they received either alcohol or placebo.\ud Results: In Study 1, nicotine administration increased abstinent smokers’ ratings of happiness and sadness to the corresponding film clips. In Study 2, nicotine and alcohol both enhanced positive reactivity to happy clips, and their effects were not additive. Alcohol but not nicotine likewise enhanced sadness responses to sad clips.\ud Conclusions: Abstinence from smoking can result in blunting of affective responses to positively toned stimuli, an effect that can be ameliorated by both nicotine and alcohol. The impact of nicotine on negative reactivity appears to be less robust.
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