Alcohol devaluation has dissociable effects on distinct components of alcohol behaviour
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RATIONALE: Substance-related behaviour is often viewed as an appetitive behaviour, motivated by the reinforcing effects of the drug. However, there are various indices of substance motivation (e.g. attentional bias, behavioural economic demand, craving) and it is unclear how these are related or whether they play an important role in all types of substance-related behaviour. OBJECTIVES: (1) To determine the effect of alcohol devaluation on several indices of alcohol motivation and goal-directed and cue-elicited alcohol behaviour. (2) To investigate which components of motivation mediate any effect of devaluation on behaviour. METHODS: Sixty-two social drinkers gave baseline measures of alcohol craving, behavioural economic demand and choice for alcohol vs. soft drink. Participants tasted alcohol which was either unadulterated (control) or adulterated with a bitter solution (devaluation) before craving and demand were measured again. Alcohol choice was assessed in several phases: extinction (evaluating goal-directed behaviour), in the presence of drink cues (Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT, cue-elicited behaviour)), and reacquisition. Attentional bias (AB) was measured by tracking eye movements towards the drink cues during novel PIT trials where both cues were presented. Finally, consumption was evaluated in a taste test. RESULTS: Alcohol devaluation reduced alcohol-related demand, AB, alcohol choice in all phases, and consumption. Alcohol cues presented during PIT increased alcohol choice above baseline irrespective of devaluation. AB and demand for alcohol fully mediated the effect of devaluation on alcohol choice during extinction, AB fully mediated the effect on cue-elicited (specific PIT) alcohol choice and alcohol consumption. CONCLUSIONS: Alcohol behaviour in social drinkers is largely sensitive to devaluation, i.e. governed by current motivational value of the drug (suggesting goal-directed behaviour). However, a dissociable form of stimulus control can also drive alcohol-seeking independently of drug value (specific PIT). Mediation analyses suggests that AB may play a paradoxical role in both forms of alcohol seeking and consumption.
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