The amygdala is critically involved in detecting emotionally salient stimuli and in enhancing memory for emotional information. Growing evidence also suggests that the amygdala plays a crucial role in addiction, perhaps by strengthening associations between emotionally-charged drug cues and drug-seeking behavior. In the current study, by integrating functional MRI (fMRI), genetics, and outcome data from a large group of smokers who completed a smoking-cessation intervention and attempted to quit, we show that the amygdala also plays a role in quitting. Specifically, we demonstrate that the amygdala response to smoking-cessation messages in smokers trying to quit is a predictor of their post-intervention quitting outcome. We further show that the amygdala response is modulated by genetic variation in the serotonin transporter and mediates the impact of this genetic variation on quitting. These results point to a gene-brain-behavior pathway relevant to smoking cessation, and add to our understanding of the role of the amygdala in nicotine addiction.
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