The impact of cue-elicited multisensory imagery on alcohol craving: A randomized controlled trial

Ceyda Kiyak, Paolo Deluca, Sam Norton, Matilde E. Simonetti, Emanuele Preti

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Introduction: Elaborated intrusion theory suggests that imagery is central to craving; however, the possibility that cue-elicited multisensory imagery produces such urges has not been studied enough in the literature. Thus, we investigated the role of cue-elicited multisensory imagery on alcohol craving in individuals who are hazardous and social drinkers compared to mental and neutral imagery conditions. Methods: In an online experiment, hazardous and social drinkers (N = 348) between 18 and 45 years old were randomised to multisensory, mental, and neutral imagery exposure. The level of craving intensity was measured before and after imagery exposure. Also, participants rated vividness and sensory features scales after the exposure. Results: The level of craving was significantly higher in multisensory imagery condition compared to neutral condition (b = 1.94, p < 0.001, SE = 0.30, t(344) = 6.52, standardised mean difference [SMD] = 0.89) and in mental imagery condition compared to neutral condition (b = 1.82, SE = 0.30, t(344) = 6.52, p < 0.001, SMD = 0.83). The difference between the level of craving intensity between the multisensory and mental was not significant (b = 0.12, SE = 0.22, t(344) = 0.53, p = 0.594, SMD = 0.06). Moreover, craving intensity in response to multisensory versus neutral imagery was significantly stronger among hazardous drinkers (b = −2.90, SE = 0.83, t(341) = −3.50, p < 0.001). The level of vividness was not significantly different between any conditions. The difference between levels of sensory features was higher in multisensory imagery condition compared to neutral (b = 0.95, SE = 0.30, t(345) = 3.17, p = 0.002, SMD = 0.49) and mental imagery condition (b = 0.67, SE = 0.23, t(345) = 2.36, p = 0.004, SMD = 0.35). Conclusion: Results suggest that cue-elicited multisensory imagery may be a useful tool for eliciting alcohol craving responses and provide an additional means for better understanding the multi-layered mechanism of craving.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353–362
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Addiction Research
Issue number5
Early online date29 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Alcohol
  • Craving
  • Elaborated intrusion theory
  • Mental imagery
  • Multisensory imagery

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