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Electrophysiological Responses to Alcohol Cues Are Not Associated with Pavlovian-to-Instrumental Transfer in Social Drinkers

Author(s): Jasna Martinovic, Andrew Jones, Paul Christiansen, Abigail K. Rose, Lee Hogarth, Matt Field

Pavlovian to Instrumental Transfer (PIT) refers to the behavioral phenomenon of increased instrumental responding for a reinforcer when in the presence of Pavlovian conditioned stimuli that were separately paired with that reinforcer. PIT effects may play an important role in substance use disorders, but little is known about the brain mechanisms that underlie these effects in alcohol consumers. We report behavioral and electroencephalographic (EEG) data from a group of social drinkers (n = 31) who performed a PIT task in which they chose between two instrumental responses in pursuit of beer and chocolate reinforcers while their EEG reactivity to beer, chocolate and neutral pictorial cues was recorded. We examined two markers of the motivational salience of the pictures: the P300 and slow wave event-related potentials (ERPs). Results demonstrated a behavioral PIT effect: responding for beer was increased when a beer picture was presented. Analyses of ERP amplitudes demonstrated significantly larger slow potentials evoked by beer cues at various electrode clusters. Contrary to hypotheses, there were no significant correlations between behavioral PIT effects, electrophysiological reactivity to the cues, and individual differences in drinking behaviour. Our findings are the first to demonstrate a PIT effect for beer, accompanied by increased slow potentials in response to beer cues, in social drinkers. The lack of relationship between behavioral and EEG measures, and between these measures and individual differences in drinking behaviour may be attributed to methodological features of the PIT task and to characteristics of our sample.

Full version: Available here

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Publication Year: 2014
Periodical: PLoS One
Periodical Number: 4
Volume: 9
Pages: e94605
Author Address: