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Addict Behav. 2012 Jun;37(6):703-8. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2012.02.013. Epub 2012 Feb 17.

Validation of smoking-related virtual environments for cue exposure therapy.

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Department of Psychology, University of Oviedo, Plaza Feijoo s/n, 33003 Oviedo, Spain.


Craving is considered one of the main factors responsible for relapse after smoking cessation. Cue exposure therapy (CET) consists of controlled and repeated exposure to drug-related stimuli in order to extinguish associated responses. The main objective of this study was to assess the validity of 7 virtual reality environments for producing craving in smokers that can be used within the CET paradigm. Forty-six smokers and 44 never-smokers were exposed to 7 complex virtual environments with smoking-related cues that reproduce typical situations in which people smoke, and to a neutral virtual environment without smoking cues. Self-reported subjective craving and psychophysiological measures were recorded during the exposure. All virtual environments with smoking-related cues were able to generate subjective craving in smokers, while no increase was observed for the neutral environment. The most sensitive psychophysiological variable to craving increases was heart rate. The findings provide evidence of the utility of virtual reality for simulating real situations capable of eliciting craving. We also discuss how CET for smoking cessation can be improved through these virtual tools.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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