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PLoS One. 2011 Apr 22;6(4):e18898. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018898.

Deficits in inhibitory control in smokers during a Go/NoGo task: an investigation using event-related brain potentials.

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Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



The role of inhibitory control in addictive behaviors is highlighted in several models of addictive behaviors. Although reduced inhibitory control has been observed in addictive behaviors, it is inconclusive whether this is evident in smokers. Furthermore, it has been proposed that drug abuse individuals with poor response inhibition may experience greater difficulties not consuming substances in the presence of drug cues. The major aim of the current study was to provide electrophysiological evidence for reduced inhibitory control in smokers and to investigate whether this is more pronounced during smoking cue exposure.


Participants (19 smokers and 20 non-smoking controls) performed a smoking Go/NoGo task. Behavioral accuracy and amplitudes of the N2 and P3 event-related potential (ERP), both reflecting aspects of response inhibition, were the main variables of interest.


Reduced NoGo N2 amplitudes in smokers relative to controls were accompanied by decreased task performance, whereas no differences between groups were found in P3 amplitudes. This was found to represent a general lack of inhibition in smokers, and not dependent on the presence of smoking cues.


The current results suggest that smokers have difficulties with response inhibition, which is an important finding that eventually can be implemented in smoking cessation programs. More research is needed to clarify the exact role of cue exposure on response inhibition.

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