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Baclofen-induced Changes in the Resting Brain Modulate Smoking Cue Reactivity: A Double-blind Placebo-controlled Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study in Cigarette Smokers

  • Ketcherside, Ariel
  • Jagannathan, Kanchana
  • Dolui, Sudipto
  • Hager, Nathan
  • Spilka, Nathaniel
  • Nutor, Chaela
  • Rao, Hengyi
  • Franklin, Teresa
  • Wetherill, Reagan
Published Article
Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience
Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Publication Date
May 31, 2020
DOI: 10.9758/cpn.2020.18.2.289
PMID: 32329309
PMCID: PMC7242101
PubMed Central


Objective Smoking cue-(SC) elicited craving can lead to relapse in SC-vulnerable individuals. Thus, identifying treatments that target SC-elicited craving is a top research priority. Reduced drug cue neural activity is associated with recovery and is marked by a profile of greater tonic (resting) activation in executive control regions, and increased connectivity between executive and salience regions. Evidence suggests the GABA-B agonist baclofen can reduce drug cue-elicited neural activity, potentially through its actions on the resting brain. Based on the literature, we hypothesize that baclofen’s effects in the resting brain can predict its effects during SC exposure. Methods In this longitudinal, double blind, placebo-controlled neuropharmacological study 43 non-abstinent, sated treatment-seeking cigarette smokers (63% male) participated in an fMRI resting-state scan and a SC-reactivity task prior to (T1) and 3 weeks following randomization (T2; baclofen: 80 mg/day; n = 21). Subjective craving reports were acquired before and after SC exposure to explicitly examine SC-induced craving. Results Whole-brain full-factorial analysis revealed a group-by-time interaction with greater resting brain activation of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) at T2 in the baclofen group (BAC) ( p FWEcorr = 0.02), which was associated with reduced neural responses to SCs in key cue-reactive brain regions; the anterior ventral insula and ventromedial prefrontal cortex ( p FWEcorr < 0.01). BAC, but not the placebo group reported decreased SC-elicited craving ( p = 0.02). Conclusion Results suggest that baclofen mitigates the reward response to SCs through an increase in tonic activation of the dlPFC, an executive control region. Through these mechanisms, baclofen may offer SC-vulnerable smokers protection from SC-induced relapse.

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