Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer of nicotine and food cues in deprived cigarette smokers

Heena R. Manglani, Andrea H. Lewis, Stephen J. Wilson, Mauricio R. Delgado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction: Smoking-related cues can promote drug-seeking behavior and curtail attempts to quit. One way to understand the potential impact of such cues is to compare cue-elicited behaviors for smoking and other reinforcers (eg, food) using the Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer paradigm which measures how much control cues can exert over reward-seeking responses. Methods: We tested the influence of appetitive cues on smokers' behavior following 12 hours of abstinence from smoking and eating. First, we equated the value of cigarette and food by assessing a Willingness-to-Pay measure for each reinforcer. Second, we evaluated behavioral differences between cues with Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer. In two phases, participants learned (1) the association between distinct stimuli and cigarette or food outcomes and, (2) specific instrumental responses that yielded such outcomes. Motivated behavior was probed under extinction in a subsequent transfer test assessing instrumental responding in the presence of the cues. Results: Participants showed an increase in specific responding (eg, instrumental response associated with cigarette) when faced with the corresponding appetitive cue (eg, stimulus associated with cigarette) despite absence of outcome. Notably, they made more cigarette-seeking than foodseeking instrumental responses, suggesting that cues representative of cigarette outcomes exert stronger influences on behavior than non-drug (food) cues. Using a measure of subjective preference we also observed that greater preference for cigarette-compared to food-cues correlated with increased cigarette-seeking behavior in the test phase. Conclusion: Taken together, these results highlight how drug and non-drug cues differentially influence reward-seeking behaviors during deprivation, which has implications for smoking cessation treatment and relapse. Implications: This study examines the motivational influence of both drug and non-drug cues within a single sample of cigarette smokers. Our results demonstrate that the motivational properties of smoking cues differ from cues relating to other types of reward, such as food. This research informs smoking cessation programs to target the salience of nicotine cues and the maladaptive drug-seeking behaviors prompted by them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-676
Number of pages7
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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