Amber Copeland

I am a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield. Funded by the MRC, I conduct research that applies computational models of decision-making that derive from the field of cognitive neuroscience to addiction research, including alcohol use disorder and recovery from it. My wider research interests include 1) ‘meaning in life’ and how this construct relates to patterns of substance use, 2) the development and application of novel quantitative techniques to explore behaviour change, and 3) methodology, reproducibility, and open science. Although based in the Department of Psychology, I also work alongside the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group in Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research.

Modelling value-based decision-making (VBDM) in current smokers and ex-smokers

Aims: Nicotine dependence is characterised by hypervaluation of tobacco and hypovaluation of tobacco-free alternative rewards. However, a substantial number of people successfully give up tobacco smoking. This is the first study to apply a computational model of value-based decision-making (VBDM) to account for recovery from nicotine addiction.
Methods: Pre-registered, cross-sectional design. 51 current smokers and 51 ex-smokers were recruited. Participants completed a two-alternative forced choice task in which they chose between either two valenced smoking-related images (in one block) or two valenced animal (control) images (in a different block). On each block, participants pressed a key to select the image that they previously rated most positively. We applied a drift-diffusion model (DDM) to the reaction time and accuracy data to estimate evidence accumulation (EA) processes and response thresholds during the different blocks.
Results: There were no significant differences in EA rates for smoking stimuli or animal stimuli in current smokers compared to ex-smokers. However, ex-smokers had significantly higher response thresholds compared to current smokers when they were making smoking-related choices (p = .01, d = .45), although there were no group differences in responses thresholds when they were making choices between animal pictures.
Conclusions: Recovery from nicotine addiction was characterised by increased cautiousness when making value-based decisions about smoking images. However, contrary to hypotheses, EA rates during value-based decision-making did not differ between current and former smokers.