Sex differences in negative affective response during nicotine withdrawal


  • This research was supported by an award from the National Cancer Institute (P50 CA84724). This article was based on research conducted by Joanne Hogle, under the supervision of John J. Curtin, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Master's degree.

Address reprint requests to: John J. Curtin, Department of Psychology, The University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA. E-mail:


This study examined physiological indicants of the neurobiological mediators of negative affect during acute nicotine withdrawal. Eighty subjects (41 male) were assigned to one of four groups (24-h deprived or nondeprived dependent smokers, occasional smokers, and nonsmokers) and participated in an instructed fear conditioning paradigm involving cued administration of electric shock. Negative affective response was measured with fear-potentiated startle during cues that signaled electric shock and during the postcue offset recovery period. Salivary cortisol and self-report measures were also collected. Fear-potentiated startle results indicated that affective recovery postcue offset was delayed in nicotine-deprived women. Nicotine-deprived women also displayed elevated cortisol levels throughout the fear conditioning procedure.