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We sought to determine whether polymorphism in the serotonin transporter (5HTT) gene is associated with attentional bias toward smoking-related stimuli in current smokers and ex-smokers, using a modified Stroop task and an attentional blink task to measure selective processing of smoking-related stimuli. All participants attended a single testing session during which they completed the modified Stroop and attentional blink tasks to index attentional bias for smoking-related stimuli, in counterbalanced order. The experimental design included two between-subjects factors of smoking status (current smoker, ex-smoker) and 5HTT genotype (short, long). Smoking status x genotype interactions were significant on both the modified Stroop (p = .046) and the attentional blink (p = .006) tasks. On the modified Stroop task, we found a significant effect of 5HTT genotype on color-naming interference among ex-smokers (p = .018) but not current smokers (p = .989). On the attentional blink task, we found a significant effect of 5HTT genotype for current smokers (p = .028), whereas among ex-smokers this effect did not reach statistical significance, although it constituted a trend (p = .086). Our data provide tentative support for a moderating influence of 5HTT genotype on attentional bias for smoking-related stimuli in ex-smokers. This finding may account for inconsistent reports of attentional bias among ex-smokers.

Original publication




Journal article


Nicotine Tob Res

Publication Date





773 - 778


Adult, Attention, Blinking, Female, Genotype, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Psychometrics, Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins, Smoking, Smoking Cessation, Visual Perception