Tobacco & Nicotine Products
The Neurocognitive Effects of Throat Grab Sensation Associated with Menthol Cigarettes
(School of Public Health (UMD) Behavioral and Community health Staff)
A survey of internal tobacco industry documents suggests that menthol cigarettes are explicitly designed to produce both a cooling sensation, as well as an increased sensation of “throat grab” through stimulation of the trigeminal nerve. Together, these sensations are thought to increase product satisfaction, leading to increased usage and ultimately abuse. It is possible that the throat grab characteristic of mentholated cigarettes in particular produces a cognitively reinforcing effect, similar to nicotine alone. However, the neurocognitive effects of the throat grab sensation associated with menthol cigarettes have not previously been investigated. In the present study, we isolated the neurocognitive effects associated with the throat grab sensation by having 11 cigarette smokers smoke either mentholated cigarettes without anesthetization, or following throat anesthetization using a cepacol spray to remove the throat grab effect. Additionally, participants smoked regular cigarettes either with or without throat anesthetization as a comparison. Immediately prior to, and immediately following cigarette smoking, electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded and changes within the alpha band of the EEG were analyzed. Modulation of frontal high alpha asymmetry was employed as an index of positive affect, while suppression of global low alpha power was used as an index of changes in arousal levels. Consistent with previous work, smoking regular cigarettes with or without throat anesthetization led to a comparable increase in high alpha asymmetry and low alpha suppression, indexing increased positive affect and arousal levels, respectively. In contrast, preliminary data suggests that smoking menthol cigarettes without anesthetization actually induced less alpha asymmetry and reduced low alpha suppression, compared to smoking after treatment with cepacol to remove the throat grab effect. These data suggest that the throat grab sensation may actually reduce the cognitive reinforcing effects of menthol cigarettes. However, data collection remains ongoing and future analyses will also incorporate assessment of event-related potentials (ERPS) as well as subjective measures.