Effects of a context shift and multiple context extinction on reactivity to alcohol cues.
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Cue exposure treatment (CET) attempts to reduce the influence of conditioned substance cues on addictive behavior via extinction, but has received only modest empirical support in clinical trials. This may be because extinction learning appears to be context dependent and a change in context may result in a return of conditioned responding (i.e., renewal), although this has received only limited empirical examination. The current study used a 4-session laboratory analogue of CET to examine whether a change in context following 3 sessions of alcohol cue exposure with response prevention would result in renewal of conditioned responding. In addition, this study examined whether conducting extinction in multiple contexts would attenuate renewal of conditioned responding. In one-way between-subjects design, 73 heavy drinkers (71% men) were randomized to 3 conditions: (a) single context extinction (extinction to alcohol cues in the same context for 3 sessions followed by a context shift at the fourth session), (b) multiple context extinction (extinction to alcohol cues in different contexts each day for all 4 sessions), and (c) pseudoextinction control condition (exposure to neutral cues in the same context for 3 sessions followed by exposure to alcohol cues at the fourth session). The results revealed the predicted cue reactivity and extinction effects, but the hypotheses that a context shift would generate renewed cue reactivity and that multiple contexts would enhance extinction were not supported. Methodological aspects of the study and the need for parametric data on the context dependency of extinction to alcohol cues are discussed.
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