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Effects of Acute Nicotine Abstinence on Cue-elicited Ventral Striatum/Nucleus Accumbens Activation in Female Cigarette Smokers: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

  • David, Sean P.1, 2
  • Munafò, Marcus R.3
  • Johansen-Berg, Heidi4
  • MacKillop, James5
  • Sweet, Lawrence H.6
  • Cohen, Ronald A.6
  • Niaura, Raymond7
  • Rogers, Robert D.8
  • Matthews, Paul M.9
  • Walton, Robert T.10
  • 1 University of Oxford, Radcliffe Infirmary, Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Oxford, UK , Oxford (United Kingdom)
  • 2 The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Center for Primary Care & Prevention, 111 Brewster Street, Pawtucket, RI, 02860, USA , Pawtucket (United States)
  • 3 University of Bristol, Department of Experimental Psychology, Bristol, UK , Bristol (United Kingdom)
  • 4 The University of Oxford, Department of Clinical Neurology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK , Oxford (United Kingdom)
  • 5 The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Pawtucket, USA , Pawtucket (United States)
  • 6 The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, Pawtucket, USA , Pawtucket (United States)
  • 7 The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, Pawtucket, USA , Pawtucket (United States)
  • 8 University of Oxford, Department of Psychiatry, Oxford, UK , Oxford (United Kingdom)
  • 9 GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Imaging Centre, London, UK , London (United Kingdom)
  • 10 Medical Research Council Laboratories, Fajara, The Gambia , Fajara (Gambia)
Published Article
Brain Imaging and Behavior
Publication Date
May 31, 2007
DOI: 10.1007/s11682-007-9004-1
Springer Nature


To achieve greater understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying nicotine craving in female smokers, we examined the influence of nicotine non-abstinence vs. acute nicotine abstinence on cue-elicited activation of the ventral striatum. Eight female smokers underwent an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm presenting randomized sequences of smoking-related and non-smoking related pictures. Participants were asked to indicate by a key press the gender of individuals in smoking-related and non-smoking related pictures (gender discrimination task), to maintain and evaluate attention to the pictures. There was a significant effect of smoking condition on reaction times (RT) for a gender discrimination task intended to assess and maintain attention to the photographs—suggesting a deprivation effect of acute nicotine abstinence and a statistical trend indicating greater RTs for smoking cues than neutral cues. BOLD contrast (smoking vs. non-smoking cues) was greater in the non-abstinent vs. acutely abstinent conditions in the ventral striatum including the nucleus accumbens (VS/NAc). Moreover, a significant positive correlation was observed between baseline cigarette craving prior to scanning and VS/NAc activation (r = 0.84, p = 0.009), but only in the non-abstinent condition. These results may either be explained by ceiling effects of nicotine withdrawal in the abstinent condition or, may indicate reduced relative activation (smoking vs. neutral contrast) in the VS/NAc in the abstinent vs. non-abstinent conditions in this group of female smokers.

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