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The role of stress in understanding neurobiological, behavioral, and attentional mechanisms underlying comorbid smoking and excess weight

Silvina A Salvi, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Cigarette smoking and overweight/obesity are the top two most preventable causes of death and illness in the United States. Comorbid overweight/obesity and smoking significantly increases these associated risks. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying this paradoxical comorbidity. The present study investigated theoretical models (e.g., the Incentive Sensitization Theory) that may elucidate mechanisms underlying this comorbidity within a stress-diathesis/stress-vulnerability framework. Specifically, the present study aimed to investigate potential differences in neurobiological, behavioral, and attentional responses among overweight/obese smokers, and a potential risk factor - stress reactivity - which may further influence them. To examine these aims, the present study utilized an experimental design to test the hypotheses that: (a) overweight/obese smokers would report significantly different psychological and neurobiological responses following a stress-induction compared with normal-weight smokers; (b) overweight/obese smokers would demonstrate greater attentional bias toward salient cues (i.e., cigarette and/or food) over neutral cues compared with normal-weight smokers; and (c) stress would exacerbate biases toward cues among overweight/obese smokers compared with normal-weight smokers. Participants were 26 smokers between the ages of 21 and 54, ranging in body weight. Three categories of body mass index (BMI) were included in the study: normal (BMI = 18.50 - 24.99), overweight (BMI = 25.00 - 29.99), and obese (BMI ≥ 30.00). Results are discussed with reference to outlined aims and underlying psychological, neurobiological, behavioral, and attentional processes. Finally, treatment implications, limitations of the present study, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Subject Area

Psychobiology|Behavioral psychology|Nutrition|Public health|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Salvi, Silvina A, "The role of stress in understanding neurobiological, behavioral, and attentional mechanisms underlying comorbid smoking and excess weight" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3700359.