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The Use of Virtual Reality to Induce and Assess Nicotine Craving

Institution: University of California, San Diego
Investigator(s): Kelly Courtney,
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 30) Grant #: T30IP0962 Award: $335,352
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: High Impact Pilot Award

Initial Award Abstract
Craving for nicotine is commonly named by smokers to be a barrier to quitting smoking and maintaining abstinence. The goal of this project is to develop and test a new method of measuring craving in users of nicotine and tobacco products (NTPs). Research has shown that NTP users tend to look at objects that remind them of NTPs longer than unrelated objects (termed attentional bias) and this bias reflects their craving for nicotine. In theory, how often a person blinks may also be related to their craving level. Using virtual reality, this method will simulate real-world scenes in which individuals frequently use NTPs and record participants' attentional bias and eye-blink rates towards NTP-related objects in the scenes. The successful development and testing of this method will allow researchers to learn more about how craving works in the brain and potentially discover new ways to reduce it.