Exploring cue reactivity in nicotine dependent young adults using virtual reality with expanded olfactory cues
Traylor, Amy Crunk
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Nicotine use among young adults is a serious health concern that should be addressed through the use of technologically-driven interventions. This study was designed to explore the effects of exposure to virtual reality (VR) nicotine cues in a sample of nicotine dependent, non-treatment-seeking young adults. In addition, the effects of exposure to VR olfactory cues were examined. The goals of this study were twofold: 1) to determine to what extent exposure to VR smoking cues increased subjective reactivity in nicotine dependent young adult smokers as opposed to exposure to VR neutral cues, and 2) to determine if and to what extent exposure to VR olfactory cues, along with VR auditory and visual cues, increased subjective reactivity as opposed to exposure only to VR auditory and visual cues. Twenty nicotine dependent young adults between the ages of 19 and 24 experienced VR environments that included visual, auditory, and olfactory cues or VR environments that provided only visual and auditory cues. Subjects provided ratings related to subjective craving and attention to cues in each room. Results of one way, repeated measures ANOVAs indicated that subjects experienced significantly more craving in VR smoking cue rooms than in VR neutral cue rooms, but results of univariate analysis of covariance indicated that exposure to olfactory cues did not significantly increase subjective reactivity. This is the first VR study to focus specifically on young adult smokers and to explore the effects of VR-provided olfactory cues on young adult smokers’ levels of craving, contributing to the literature concerning young adult smokers and VR cue exposure methodology.