Neural substrates of abstinence-induced cigarette cravings in chronic smokers

J Neurosci. 2007 Dec 19;27(51):14035-40. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2966-07.2007.


Craving is a hallmark of drug dependence, including dependence on nicotine. Many studies have examined the neural substrates of cravings elicited by smoking-related cues. Less is known about the neural basis of unprovoked, abstinence-induced cravings, despite the contributions of such cravings to smoking relapse. To fill this gap, we used arterial spin labeled (ASL) perfusion magnetic resonance imaging to characterize the neural substrates of abstinence-induced cravings to smoke. Fifteen chronic smokers were scanned during a resting state on two separate occasions: (1) smoking satiety and (2) abstinence (after > or = 12 h of smoking deprivation), in counterbalanced order. Smoking abstinence state (vs satiety) was associated with increased cerebral blood flow (CBF) in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)/medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and left OFC. Abstinence-induced cravings to smoke were predicted by CBF increases (abstinence minus satiety) in the right OFC, right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, occipital cortex, ACC, ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens, thalamus, amygdala, bilateral hippocampus, left caudate, and right insula. These data suggest that increased activation in the brain's visuospatial and reward circuitry underlies abstinence-induced cravings to smoke, and thereby, may be important in relapse.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Smoking / physiopathology*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology