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author:("cousin, Janna")
1.  Re-training Automatic Action Tendencies to Approach Cigarettes among Adolescent Smokers: A Pilot Study 
This pilot study conducted a preliminary examination of whether Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM), a computerized task to retrain cognitive-approach biases towards smoking stimuli, (1) changed approach bias for cigarettes, and (2) improved smoking cessation outcomes in adolescent smokers.
Sixty adolescent smokers received four weeks of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for smoking cessation, with CBM (90% avoidance/10% approach for smoking stimuli and 10% avoidance/90% approach for neutral stimuli) or sham (50% avoidance/50% approach for smoking and neutral stimuli) training in the Netherlands (n = 42) and the United States (n = 18).
While we did not observe changes in action tendencies related to CBM, adolescents with higher smoking approach biases at baseline had greater decreases in approach biases at follow up, compared to adolescents with smoking avoidance biases, regardless of treatment condition (p = 0.01). Intent-to-treat (ITT) analyses showed that CBM, when compared with sham trended toward higher end-of-treatment, biochemically-confirmed, seven-day point prevalence abstinence, (17.2% vs. 3.2%, p = 0.071). ITT analysis also showed that regardless of treatment condition, cotinine level (p = 0.045) and average number of cigarette smoked (p ≤ 0.001) significantly decreased over the course of treatment.
The findings from this pilot study suggests that re-training approach biases toward cigarettes shows promise for smoking cessation among adolescent smokers. Future research should utilize larger samples and increased distinction between CBM and sham conditions, and examine mechanisms underlying the CBM approach.
PMCID: PMC4561007  PMID: 26186485
attentional bias; Approach-Avoidance Task; Cognitive Bias Modification; smoking; intervention; adolescents
2.  Attempted Training of Alcohol Approach and Drinking Identity Associations in US Undergraduate Drinkers: Null Results from Two Studies 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(8):e0134642.
There is preliminary evidence that approach avoid training can shift implicit alcohol associations and improve treatment outcomes. We sought to replicate and extend those findings in US undergraduate social drinkers (Study 1) and at-risk drinkers (Study 2). Three adaptations of the approach avoid task (AAT) were tested. The first adaptation – the approach avoid training – was a replication and targeted implicit alcohol approach associations. The remaining two adaptations – the general identity and personalized identity trainings – targeted implicit drinking identity associations, which are robust predictors of hazardous drinking in US undergraduates. Study 1 included 300 undergraduate social drinkers. They were randomly assigned to real or sham training conditions for one of the three training adaptations, and completed two training sessions, spaced one week apart. Study 2 included 288 undergraduates at risk for alcohol use disorders. The same training procedures were used, but the two training sessions occurred within a single week. Results were not as expected. Across both studies, the approach avoid training yielded no evidence of training effects on implicit alcohol associations or alcohol outcomes. The general identity training also yielded no evidence of training effects on implicit alcohol associations or alcohol outcomes with one exception; individuals who completed real training demonstrated no changes in drinking refusal self-efficacy whereas individuals who completed sham training had reductions in self-efficacy. Finally, across both studies, the personalized identity training yielded no evidence of training effects on implicit alcohol associations or alcohol outcomes. Despite having relatively large samples and using a well-validated training task, study results indicated all three training adaptations were ineffective at this dose in US undergraduates. These findings are important because training studies are costly and labor-intensive. Future research may benefit from focusing on more severe populations, pairing training with other interventions, increasing training dose, and increasing gamification of training tasks.
PMCID: PMC4524630  PMID: 26241316
3.  Embracing comorbidity: a way toward understanding the role of motivational and control processes in cannabis use disorders 
PMCID: PMC4444647  PMID: 26074841
cannabis use disorders; depression; anxiety; comorbidity; motivation; control
4.  Brain volume in male patients with recent onset schizophrenia with and without cannabis use disorders 
Schizophrenia is highly comorbid with cannabis use disorders (CUDs), and this comorbidity is associated with an unfavourable course. Early onset or frequent cannabis use may influence brain structure. A key question is whether comorbid CUDs modulate brain morphology alterations associated with schizophrenia.
We used surface-based analysis to measure the brain volume, cortical thickness and cortical surface area of a priori–defined brain regions (hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, caudate, putamen, orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, insula, parahippocampus and fusiform gyrus) in male patients with schizophrenia or related disorders with and without comorbid CUDs and matched healthy controls. Associations between age at onset and frequency of cannabis use with regional grey matter volume were explored.
We included 113 patients with (CUD, n = 80) and without (NCUD, n = 33) CUDs and 84 controls in our study. As expected, patients with schizophrenia (with or without a CUD) had smaller volumes of most brain regions (amygdala, putamen, insula, parahippocampus and fusiform gyrus) than healthy controls, and differences in cortical volume were mainly driven by cortical thinning. Compared with the NCUD group, the CUD group had a larger volume of the putamen, possibly driven by polysubstance use. No associations between age at onset and frequency of use with regional grey matter volumes were found.
We were unable to correct for possible confounding effects of smoking or antipsychotic medication.
Patients with psychotic disorders and comorbid CUDs have larger putamen volumes than those without CUDs. Future studies should elaborate whether a large putamen represents a risk factor for the development of CUDs or whether (poly)substance use causes changes in putamen volume.
PMCID: PMC4409437  PMID: 25510948
5.  Developmental Changes in ERP Responses to Spatial Frequencies 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0122507.
Social interaction starts with perception of other persons. One of the first steps in perception is processing of basic information such as spatial frequencies (SF), which represent details and global information. However, although behavioural perception of SF is well investigated, the developmental trajectory of the temporal characteristics of SF processing is not yet well understood. The speed of processing of this basic visual information is crucial, as it determines the speed and possibly accuracy of subsequent visual and social processes. The current study investigated developmental changes in the temporal characteristics of selective processing of high SF (HSF; details) versus low SF (LSF; global). To this end, brain activity was measured using EEG in 108 children aged 3–15 years, while HSF or LSF grating stimuli were presented. Interest was in the temporal characteristics of brain activity related to LSF and HSF processing, specifically at early (N80) or later (P1 or N2) peaks in brain activity. Analyses revealed that from 7–8 years onwards HSF but not LSF stimuli evoked an N80 peak. In younger children, aged 3–8 years, the visual manipulation mainly affected the visual N2 peak. Selective processing of HSF versus LSF thus occurs at a rather late time-point (N2 peak) in young children. Although behavioural research previously showed that 3–6 year-olds can perceive detailed information, the current results point out that selective processing of HSF versus LSF is still delayed in these children. The delayed processing in younger children could impede the use of LSF and HSF for emotional face processing. Thus, the current study is a starting point for understanding changes in basic visual processing which underlie social development.
PMCID: PMC4370476  PMID: 25799038
6.  The Relation between Gray Matter Morphology and Divergent Thinking in Adolescents and Young Adults 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114619.
Adolescence and early adulthood are developmental time periods during which creative cognition is highly important for adapting to environmental changes. Divergent thinking, which refers to generating novel and useful solutions to open-ended problems, has often been used as a measure of creative cognition. The first goal of this structural neuroimaging study was to elucidate the relationship between gray matter morphology and performance in the verbal (AUT; alternative uses task) and visuo-spatial (CAT; creative ability test) domain of divergent thinking in adolescents and young adults. The second goal was to test if gray matter morphology is related to brain activity during AUT performance. Neural and behavioral data were combined from a cross-sectional study including 25 adolescents aged 15–17 and 20 young adults aged 25–30. Brain-behavior relationships were assessed without a priori location assumptions and within areas that were activated during an AUT-scanner task. Gray matter volume and cortical thickness were not significantly associated with verbal divergent thinking. However, visuo-spatial divergent thinking (CAT originality and fluency) was positively associated with cortical thickness of the right middle temporal gyrus and left brain areas including the superior frontal gyrus and various occipital, parietal, and temporal areas, independently of age. AUT brain activity was not associated with cortical thickness. The results support an important role of a widespread brain network involved in flexible visuo-spatial divergent thinking, providing evidence for a relation between cortical thickness and visuo-spatial divergent thinking in adolescents and young adults. However, studies including visuo-spatial divergent thinking tasks in the scanner are warranted.
PMCID: PMC4267782  PMID: 25514366
7.  The Relation between Resting State Connectivity and Creativity in Adolescents before and after Training 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e105780.
An important component of creativity is divergent thinking, which involves the ability to generate novel and useful problem solutions. In this study, we tested the relation between resting-state functional connectivity of brain areas activated during a divergent thinking task (i.e., supramarginal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, medial frontal gyrus) and the effect of practice in 32 adolescents aged 15–16. Over a period of two weeks, an experimental group (n = 16) conducted an 8-session Alternative Uses Task (AUT) training and an active control group (n = 16) conducted an 8-session rule switching training. Resting-state functional connectivity was measured before (pre-test) and after (post-test) training. Across groups at pre-test, stronger connectivity between the middle temporal gyrus and bilateral postcentral gyrus was associated with better divergent thinking performance. The AUT-training, however, did not significantly change functional connectivity. Post hoc analyses showed that change in divergent thinking performance over time was predicted by connectivity between left supramarginal gyrus and right occipital cortex. These results provide evidence for a relation between divergent thinking and resting-state functional connectivity in a task-positive network, taking an important step towards understanding creative cognition and functional brain connectivity.
PMCID: PMC4154855  PMID: 25188416
8.  Implicit Motivational Processes Underlying Smoking in American and Dutch Adolescents 
Introduction: Research demonstrates that cognitive biases toward drug-related stimuli are correlated with substance use. This study aimed to investigate differences in cognitive biases (i.e., approach bias, attentional bias, and memory associations) between smoking and non-smoking adolescents in the US and the Netherlands. Within the group of smokers, we examined the relative predictive value of the cognitive biases and impulsivity related constructs (including inhibition skills, working memory, and risk taking) on daily smoking and nicotine dependence.
Method: A total of 125 American and Dutch adolescent smokers (n = 67) and non-smokers (n = 58) between 13 and 18 years old participated. Participants completed the smoking approach–avoidance task, the classical and emotional Stroop task, brief implicit associations task, balloon analog risk task, the self-ordering pointing task, and a questionnaire assessing level of nicotine dependence and smoking behavior.
Results: The analytical sample consisted of 56 Dutch adolescents (27 smokers and 29 non-smokers) and 37 American adolescents (19 smokers and 18 non-smokers). No differences in cognitive biases between smokers and non-smokers were found. Generally, Dutch adolescents demonstrated an avoidance bias toward both smoking and neutral stimuli whereas the American adolescents did not demonstrate a bias. Within the group of smokers, regression analyses showed that stronger attentional bias and weaker inhibition skills predicted greater nicotine dependence while weak working memory predicted more daily cigarette use.
Conclusion: Attentional bias, inhibition skills, and working memory might be important factors explaining smoking in adolescence. Cultural differences in approach–avoidance bias should be considered in future research.
PMCID: PMC4032927  PMID: 24904435
smoking; adolescents; cognitive biases; risk taking; inhibition; working memory
9.  Mechanisms Underlying Alcohol-Approach Action Tendencies: The Role of Emotional Primes and Drinking Motives 
The tendency to approach alcohol-related stimuli is known as the alcohol-approach bias and has been related to heavy alcohol use. It is currently unknown whether the alcohol-approach bias is more pronounced after emotional priming. The main aim of this study was to investigate whether positive and negative emotional primes would modulate the alcohol-approach bias. For this purpose, a new contextual emotional prime-approach avoidance task was developed, containing both negative and positive emotional primes. Explicit coping drinking motives were expected to be related to an increased alcohol-approach bias after negative primes. Results of 65 heavy and 50 occasional drinkers showed that the alcohol-approach bias was increased in both groups during negative emotional priming. This appeared to be due to slower alcohol avoidance rather than faster alcohol approach. This change in alcohol-approach bias was positively related to explicit enhancement drinking motives and negatively related to alcohol use-related problems. A stronger alcohol-approach bias in heavy compared to occasional drinkers could not be replicated here, and coping drinking motives were not related to the alcohol-approach bias in any of the emotional contexts. The current findings suggest that both occasional and heavy drinkers have a selective difficulty to avoid alcohol-related cues in a negative emotional context. Negative reinforcement may therefore be involved in different types of drinking patterns. The influence of emotional primes on alcohol-related action tendencies may become smaller when alcohol use becomes more problematic, which is in line with habit accounts of addiction.
PMCID: PMC4018525  PMID: 24834057
alcohol abuse; approach bias; approach avoidance task; emotional primes; drinking motives
10.  Implicit Associations and Explicit Expectancies toward Cannabis in Heavy Cannabis Users and Controls 
Cognitive biases, including implicit memory associations are thought to play an important role in the development of addictive behaviors. The aim of the present study was to investigate implicit affective memory associations in heavy cannabis users. Implicit positive-arousal, sedation, and negative associations toward cannabis were measured with three Single Category Implicit Association Tests (SC-IAT’s) and compared between 59 heavy cannabis users and 89 controls. Moreover, we investigated the relationship between these implicit affective associations and explicit expectancies, subjective craving, cannabis use, and cannabis related problems. Results show that heavy cannabis users had stronger implicit positive-arousal associations but weaker implicit negative associations toward cannabis compared to controls. Moreover, heavy cannabis users had stronger sedation but weaker negative explicit expectancies toward cannabis compared to controls. Within heavy cannabis users, more cannabis use was associated with stronger implicit negative associations whereas more cannabis use related problems was associated with stronger explicit negative expectancies, decreasing the overall difference on negative associations between cannabis users and controls. No other associations were observed between implicit associations, explicit expectancies, measures of cannabis use, cannabis use related problems, or subjective craving. These findings indicate that, in contrast to other substances of abuse like alcohol and tobacco, the relationship between implicit associations and cannabis use appears to be weak in heavy cannabis users.
PMCID: PMC3689035  PMID: 23801968
cannabis; implicit association test; cannabis use disorder; craving; affective associations
11.  Approach-Bias Predicts Development of Cannabis Problem Severity in Heavy Cannabis Users: Results from a Prospective FMRI Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e42394.
A potentially powerful predictor for the course of drug (ab)use is the approach-bias, that is, the pre-reflective tendency to approach rather than avoid drug-related stimuli. Here we investigated the neural underpinnings of cannabis approach and avoidance tendencies. By elucidating the predictive power of neural approach-bias activations for future cannabis use and problem severity, we aimed at identifying new intervention targets. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), neural approach-bias activations were measured with a Stimulus Response Compatibility task (SRC) and compared between 33 heavy cannabis users and 36 matched controls. In addition, associations were examined between approach-bias activations and cannabis use and problem severity at baseline and at six-month follow-up. Approach-bias activations did not differ between heavy cannabis users and controls. However, within the group of heavy cannabis users, a positive relation was observed between total lifetime cannabis use and approach-bias activations in various fronto-limbic areas. Moreover, approach-bias activations in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) independently predicted cannabis problem severity after six months over and beyond session-induced subjective measures of craving. Higher DLPFC/ACC activity during cannabis approach trials, but lower activity during cannabis avoidance trials were associated with decreases in cannabis problem severity. These findings suggest that cannabis users with deficient control over cannabis action tendencies are more likely to develop cannabis related problems. Moreover, the balance between cannabis approach and avoidance responses in the DLPFC and ACC may help identify individuals at-risk for cannabis use disorders and may be new targets for prevention and treatment.
PMCID: PMC3434213  PMID: 22957019
12.  Reaching out towards cannabis: approach-bias in heavy cannabis users predicts changes in cannabis use 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2011;106(9):1667-1674.
Repeated drug exposure can lead to an approach-bias, i.e. the relatively automatically triggered tendencies to approach rather that avoid drug-related stimuli. Our main aim was to study this approach-bias in heavy cannabis users with the newly developed cannabis Approach Avoidance Task (cannabis-AAT) and to investigate the predictive relationship between an approach-bias for cannabis-related materials and levels of cannabis use, craving, and the course of cannabis use.
Design, settings and participants
Cross-sectional assessment and six-month follow-up in 32 heavy cannabis users and 39 non-using controls.
Approach and avoidance action-tendencies towards cannabis and neutral images were assessed with the cannabis AAT. During the AAT, participants pulled or pushed a joystick in response to image orientation. To generate additional sense of approach or avoidance, pulling the joystick increased picture size while pushing decreased it. Craving was measured pre- and post-test with the multi-factorial Marijuana Craving Questionnaire (MCQ). Cannabis use frequencies and levels of dependence were measured at baseline and after a six-month follow-up.
Heavy cannabis users demonstrated an approach-bias for cannabis images, as compared to controls. The approach-bias predicted changes in cannabis use at six-month follow-up. The pre-test MCQ emotionality and expectancy factor were associated negatively with the approach-bias. No effects were found on levels of cannabis dependence.
Heavy cannabis users with a strong approach-bias for cannabis are more likely to increase their cannabis use. This approach-bias could be used as a predictor of the course of cannabis use to identify individuals at risk from increasing cannabis use.
PMCID: PMC3178782  PMID: 21518067
Approach avoidance task; approach-bias; cannabis; cannabis use disorder; craving; dependence

Results 1-12 (12)