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Event-related and readiness potentials when preparing to approach and avoid alcohol cues following cue avoidance training in heavy drinkers.Stancak, Andrej; Soto, Vicente; Fallon, Nick; Di Lemma, Lisa; University of Chester; University of Liverpool; Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez; University of Sheffield.Rationale Cue avoidance training (CAT) reduces alcohol consumption in the laboratory. However, the neural mechanisms that underlie the effects of this intervention are poorly understood. Objectives The present study investigated the effects of a single session of CAT on event-related and readiness potentials during preparation of approach and avoidance movements to alcohol cues. Methods Heavy drinking young adults (N = 60) were randomly assigned to complete either CAT or control training. After training, we recorded participants’ event-related and motor readiness potentials as they were preparing to respond. Results In the CAT group, N200 amplitude was higher when preparing to approach rather than avoid alcohol pictures. In the control group, N200 amplitudes did not differ for approach and avoidance to alcohol pictures. Regarding the late positive potential (LPP), in the CAT group, the negativity of this was blunted when preparing to avoid alcohol pictures relative to when preparing to avoid control pictures. In the control group, the negativity of the LPP was blunted when preparing to approach alcohol pictures relative to when preparing to approach control pictures. There were no effects on motor readiness potentials. Behavioural effects indicated short-lived effects of training on reaction times during the training block that did not persist when participants were given time to prepare their motor response before executing it during the EEG testing block. Conclusions After a single session of CAT, the enhanced N200 when approaching alcohol cues may indicate the engagement of executive control to overcome the associations learned during training. These findings clarify the neural mechanisms that may underlie the effects of CAT on drinking behaviour.